Closer to becoming California law: bills to limit concealed guns and decriminalize psychedelics

Your guide to California policy and politics
Lynn La BY Lynn La May 26, 2023
Presented by Dairy Cares, Southern California Gas Company, Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership and Politifest 2023

Closer to becoming California law: bills to limit concealed guns and decriminalize psychedelics

Just in time to go home for Memorial Day weekend, legislators bulldozed their way through a bunch of bills at the end of this week to beat the even bigger deluge next week, when there’s a Friday deadline to pass remaining bills through the house where they were introduced.

Some of the bills that passed include:

  • Concealed carry: When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a New York state law in 2022, it resulted in the loosening of concealed carry permit requirements. To limit the proliferation of concealed guns, this bill approved by the Senate Thursday would add more gun training requirements and add more public places to the list where Californians cannot carry their concealed weapons.
  • Legislative union: The Assembly bill that would give legislative staffers the right to unionize passed off the floor Thursday. It has been amended to ensure that political affiliation will not influence the makeup of bargaining units. Though previous efforts failed, the bill’s author, Assemblymember Tina McKinnor, a Democrat from Inglewood, told CalMatters that this year, “the political will is here.”
  • Fossil fuel divestment: Democratic Sen. Lena Gonzalez of Long Beach wants to wind down investments in fossil fuel companies from the pension funds for state employees and teachers. Opponents argue that the bill would reduce investment diversification and returns. And according to the appropriations committee, divesting in these companies would cost the state employee retirement fund $75 million to $125 million in one-time transaction fees and $31 million for teachers.
  • Protect abortion providers: To strengthen protections for California abortion providers, this bill proposes to shield them from out-of-state civil action where abortion is illegal, and prohibits the California Department of Health Care Services from automatically suspending providers from the Medi-Cal program if they were dropped from Medicare and Medicaid for providing abortion services.
  • Decriminalize psychedelics: Despite the California District Attorneys Association arguing that psychedelics have “no federally accepted medical use and have a high probability of misuse,” the Senate approved a bill to decriminalize certain hallucinogenic substances, which are known to be used by some veterans to treat PTSD, anxiety and depression.

And to stay alive, some bills changed:

  • Ebony Alert: To bring more attention and resources to missing Black youth, Sen. Steven Bradford, a Democrat from Gardena, wants to establish an “Ebony Alert” for missing children and young people between the ages of 12 and 25 years old. The bill has been amended with more specific circumstances when the alert can be issued, including if the missing person has a disability or is missing under suspicious circumstances.

CalMatters covers the Capitol: CalMatters has guides to keep track of your lawmakers, explore its record diversity, make your voice heard and understand how state government works. We have a lesson-plan-ready version of the explainer — especially made for teachers, libraries and community groups — as part of the CalMatters for Learning initiative.


1 Party like it’s almost 2024

Left: US Representative Adam Schiff. Photo by Ron Sachs, CNP/startraksphoto.com/Cover Images via Reuters; Center: US Representative Barbara Lee. Photo by J. Scott Applewhite, AP Photo; Right: US Representative Katie Porter. Photo by Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
From left to right: U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff, Barbara Lee and Katie Porter. Photo by Ron Sachs, CNP/startraksphoto.com/Cover Images via Reuters; J. Scott Applewhite, AP Photo; Andrew Harnik/Pool via Reuters, respectively.

From CalMatters Capitol reporter Sameea Kamal:

The beach and wine country might be popular destinations for Californians this Memorial Day weekend. But there’s another party in downtown L.A: The state Democratic Party’s annual convention, fully in person for the first time in nearly three years.

What to expect: 

  • Party leaders and rank-and-file delegates will strategize about re-electing President Biden and retaking control of the U.S. House in 2024. “You can’t retake the House if you don’t win seats here in California,” Chairperson Rusty Hicks told reporters Thursday. Key to those goals, per Hicks: Young voters, and voters of color, whose turnout in 2022 dropped more than that of white voters compared to 2020, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Hicks said the party seeks to engage Latino voters, in particular. 
  • Candidates to replace U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein next year will court party members this weekend. The Democratic vote is split among U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee of Oakland, Adam Schiff of Burbank and Katie Porter of Irvine — which has given Republican Eric Early a lead for now in the March 2024 primary, according to a poll out Thursday from the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies. Lee has a “sweets and solidarity” gathering tonight, while Schiff has a “comedy intervention.” It’s also a chance for Porter to try and catch up on fundraising
  • A star-studded line-up of speakers — at least by party standards — includes Gov. Gavin Newsom, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Attorney General Rob Bonta and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.

What not to expect:

  • While Hicks said climate change, health care and housing are some of the key issues facing Californians, tackling policy isn’t on the agenda. That’s partly because voters in different parts of the state are facing various problems. Said Hicks: “Our organizing capacity is focused on the issues that are happening on the ground, but also being aware and mindful of what’s happening in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere in the country, to be able to ultimately maximize turnout.”

2 No accounting for climate change?

The San Luis Reservoir an artificial lake on the eastern slopes of the Diablo Range of Merced County on Feb. 10, 2023. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
The San Luis Reservoir in Merced County on Feb. 10, 2023. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

From CalMatters’ water reporter Alastair Bland:

A quarrel is brewing between California officials over two of the century’s hottest topics: water supply and climate change. 

In a report released Thursday, State Auditor Grant Parks scolded the Department of Water Resources for failing to sufficiently factor changing climate conditions into its water supply forecasting methods, ultimately affecting reservoir management and leading to reduced supplies.  

“Despite acknowledging the need to do so more than a decade ago, DWR has not fully updated its forecasting model and related procedures to better account for the effects of climate change,” the auditor said. His report cited two instances, in 2008 and 2018, when the department admitted that climate change was affecting water supply management and reducing forecasting accuracy.

Central to the dispute is the 2021 water year, a time of drought in which the department “significantly overestimated the State’s water supply,” according to the auditor. 

Because of this expected inflow, releases from reservoirs were increased, sending stored water downstream toward the ocean. When the predicted mountain snowmelt did not arrive — partly due to higher temperatures, dry soils and increased evaporation — California entered summer with less water than it would have under more accurate forecasting. 

In their response, department officials said they are in the process of honing their forecasting capabilities but that accurately understanding novel and unprecedented climate patterns “requires time, because new tools must be developed to characterize conditions and shape forecasts in meaningful ways.”

The auditor’s report included a list of recommendations to improve the department’s forecasting methods, better evaluate its own science and make summaries of such work available for the public — suggestions that department officials said “would layer additional processes and procedures on reservoir operations.”

They added, “No amount of paperwork will solve the challenges of climate change.”

California’s water crisis, explained: CalMatters has a detailed look at how California might increase its water supply, and a dashboard tracking the state’s water situation. There’s a lesson-plan-ready version of the water explainer — especially made for teachers, libraries and community groups — as part of the CalMatters for Learning initiative.

3 Ban on ‘Erin Brokovich’ chemical

Anaplex, a metal-plating company, was shut down by air-quality officials in 2017 and 2018 because of hexavalent chromium emissions. Small amounts of hexavalent chromium, which comes from nearby metal-plating plants, were found in the air inside Lincoln classrooms in 2017 tests. Photo by Lauren Justice for Cal Matters
Anaplex, a metal-plating company. Photo by Lauren Justice for Cal Matters

That lustrous silvery sheen you see on the wheels and bumpers of classic cars may not shine as brightly any longer — at least after 2027, that is. 

As CalMatters’ climate reporter Alejandro Lazo explains, the state Air Resources Board on Thursday approved the nation’s first ban on hexavalent chromium — the same hazardous substance that whistleblower Erin Brockovich brought to national attention in her 1993 case against PG&E.

Decorative plating businesses will have until 2027 to stop using the substance, which is also known as chromium 6. Larger chrome plating plants have until 2039. 

During the production of industrial components, bubbles from chromium 6 tanks can be released in mists, drops and spills. Once they settle on surfaces and dry, dust can be released by open doors and vents. The emissions can be 500 times more carcinogenic than diesel exhaust.

Industry representatives argue that the state’s larger chrome platers produce less than 1% of emissions, and that more emissions will result as customers ship their products to other states to be plated.

The Legislature has budgeted $10 million to assist the industry, but some Air Resources board members said that likely won’t be enough.

4 Democrats clap back at Newsom on CEQA

Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses the media during a press conference announcing new gun legislation targeting the state's public carry laws on Feb. 1, 2023. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters
Gov. Newsom addresses the media during a press conference on Feb. 1, 2023. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

Despite Gov. Newsom’s urging to pass his series of reforms on the California Environmental Quality Act in Richmond on Thursday, just hours later a key Senate budget committee said “no,” report CalMatters’ Marisa Kendall and Julie Cart.

Newsom rolled out his measures, made up of 10 bills, on May 19, just two weeks before the June 2 deadline to pass legislation out of their house of origin. The two Democrats and one Republican on the committee found the package too complex to be considered in such a short time.

  • Committee Chairperson Sen. Josh Becker, a Democrat from San Mateo: “Seven days is insufficient to vet the hundreds of pages of policy nuance in these proposals.”

Since its enactment in 1970, the environmental conservation law known as CEQA has been leveraged by neighborhood groups and labor groups to thwart or stall big construction projects. Tired of “CEQA abuse” Republicans and Democrats alike have called for its reform. Newsom’s package of legislative measures would have sped up projects by limiting the time opponents can obstruct projects in court with challenges under CEQA. 

Newsom’s bills could return as budget trailer bills, however, or he could re-introduce them through policy committees, though that process takes much longer.


Police shootings panel: The next CalMatters event is June 13 and focuses on Attorney General Rob Bonta’s investigations into police killings of unarmed civilians. “Fatal Shootings: California’s Bid to Police Its Police” will be moderated by CalMatters criminal justice reporter Nigel Duara, who has been tracking these cases. Sign up here to attend in-person or virtually.


Other things worth your time

Some stories may require a subscription to read

California unlikely to run short of electricity this summer thanks to new power sources // AP News

California hospitals seek a broad bailout, but they don’t all need it // California Healthline

Will California crack down on cash apps that trap women in debt? // Los Angeles Times

California lawmaker has a dire warning on ‘tranq’ // San Francisco Chronicle

Ron DeSantis loves trashing CA, so do state Republicans // San Francisco Chronicle

Most in California want Sen. Feinstein to resign, new poll finds // Los Angeles Times

Hillary Clinton backs Eleni Kounalakis for California governor // Los Angeles Times

Sacramento Mayor Steinberg will not seek re-election, but may run for AG in 2026 // The Sacramento Bee

Assemblymember Kevin McCarty announces 2024 run for Sacramento mayor // The Sacramento Bee

SF Mayor Breed to fund ‘wellness hubs’ for overdose prevention // The San Francisco Standard

A defense of ‘La Sombrita,’ LA’s much-mocked bus stop shade // Bloomberg

US census: Bay Area population grew older, Asians now largest racial group // The Mercury News

Bakersfield reporter fights court order to turn over notes // Los Angeles Times

Blythe fought to bring a state prison into the community. Now it’s fighting to keep it open. // The Riverside Record

See you next week


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