Which California bills will beat the deadline?
The end-of-week deadline to pass bills in their house of origin is only one day away, so legislators have been busy advancing a litany of measures. On Wednesday alone, the Assembly passed 242 measures and the Senate passed 59, after approving 213 combined on Tuesday, according to tallies kept by longtime lobbyist Chris Micheli.
While many bills pass easily, there’s still plenty of drama. One contentious bill to raise the minimum wage for healthcare workers from $15.50 an hour to $21 by June 2024 and $25 by June 2025 initially failed on the Senate floor on Wednesday, after only receiving 18 out of the 21 “yes” votes needed to pass. But later in the day, the bill passed, with the bare minimum of 21.
Wednesday night, a measure pitting labor unions against the fast food industry squeaked through the Assembly after the roll call was held open for the necessary 41st vote. Assembly Bill 1228, the subject of a recent industry TV blitz, would hold franchise owners responsible for any labor violations at their restaurants. The bill was introduced after the industry, by qualifying a 2024 referendum, blocked a broader law to regulate wages and working conditions for fast food workers.
Another bill, Senate Bill 466, would roll back parts of the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and subject newer buildings to rent control limits. After the bill failed on the floor Tuesday, it was granted “reconsideration.” But the author later asked for it to be shelved.
Here are some noteworthy bills that did pass this week:
- SB 74: Would ban “high-risk” social media apps, including TikTok, on state phones and devices.
- SB 829: Would prohibit exclusive contracts between a ticket seller, such as Ticketmaster, and a California entertainment venue.
- SB 253: Would require companies with $1 billion in annual revenue to disclose greenhouse gas emissions.
- SB 261: Would require companies with $500 million in annual revenue to prepare climate financial risk reports.
- SB 50: Would prohibit police stops for five low-level traffic violations, including a broken headlight or bumper, to reduce racial profiling and harassment of female drivers. The bill passed 22-11, scraping by with only one more vote than needed.
- SB 309: Would protect freedom of religious expression for inmates, including grooming, clothing and headwear.
- AB 421: Would change signature-gathering and ballot language for referenda, a labor-backed effort to limit the influence of big business.
- AB 764: Would revise the FAIR Maps Act to clarify that new districts can’t take protecting incumbents into account.
- AB 1248: Would require cities, counties and school districts with a population of more than 300,000 to form independent redistricting commissions before the 2030 cycle.
- SB 4: Would make tens of thousands of acres available for churches and colleges to build affordable housing on their property.
- SB 423: Would extend a 2017 law that enables developers to expedite building affordable housing.
- AB 799: Would hold cities and counties that receive state money for homelessness prevention more accountable.
- SB 834: Would offer eligible low- and middle-income families loans for a down payment or construction costs.
- AB 716: Would end “surprise” ambulance billing.
- AB 869: Would push the deadline to 2035 for certain hospitals to complete seismic repairs.
- AB 1092: Would expand the Department of Managed Health Care’s oversight in health plan mergers.
California’s housing crisis, explained: CalMatters has detailed looks at why housing is so expensive in California and why homelessness is so persistent. Now, there’s a lesson-plan-ready version of these explainers and other information — especially made for teachers, libraries and community groups — as part of the CalMatters for Learning initiative, with Spanish translations.
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1 Slow roll for CA storm aid
In March, when torrential rain storms and devastating floods upended thousands of Californians, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state would provide relief to victims who did not qualify for federal emergency relief, namely undocumented residents.
Finally, after two months of radio silence and weeks of inquiries from CalMatters, the Newsom administration released more details about the $95 million not-so-rapid, Rapid Response Fund (now renamed the Storm Assistance for Immigrants Project).
- Money is available to residents living or working in counties that the federal government deemed major disaster areas and made eligible for individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (including Kern, Tulare, Madera and Monterey).
- To get state funds, applicants must prove they were not eligible for FEMA assistance and were impacted by storms from December 2022 to April 2023.
- Qualifying adults can receive $1,500 each and children can receive $500, totaling as much as $4,500 a household.
- Yet-to-be-named nonprofits will distribute the funds, which will be available starting in June until May 2024, or when the money runs out.
Why the long wait? Newsom spokesperson Alex Stack told Nicole that besides trying to minimize fraud, state officials wanted to ensure that the program would be accessible to the intended population.
- Stack: “This program is going to serve folks who might be reticent to take advantage of public benefits for fear of it affecting their immigration status, and this is a population that moves around a lot because of farm work or other issues.”
Ahead of the 2026 World Cup and 2028 Olympics coming to Los Angeles, labor groups and one city council member are pushing for a minimum wage hike for the workers who keep tourism humming in the country’s second-largest city.
According to Alejandra Reyes-Velarde of CalMatters’ California Divide team, Councilmember Curren Price is pushing to boost the minimum wage for Los Angeles airport and hotel workers to $25 an hour and raising it each year by $1 until it reaches $30 by 2028. (The statewide average minimum wage is $15.50.)
Airport and hospitality unions support the measure, which would not only increase the pay for more than 36,000 workers, but it also includes provisions for more affordable healthcare coverage options.
- Jovan Houston, LAX worker: “I think one job should be enough…. I’m 40 years old and I’ve never owned a home. I love my family, and I love us all together. I would want all of them to join me and get a big house and we could all live together — but I’m making $19.04.”
Airline and hotel representatives oppose the ordinance, saying that it would force them to raise prices and that small businesses would be forced to close, hurting tourism.
2 Private colleges and racial preferences
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on two cases that could ultimately extend California’s ban on affirmative action to private universities.
As Itzel Luna of CalMatters’ College Journalism Network explains, the state has already prohibited public universities from considering race, sex and ethnicity in admissions and hiring. Until now, private universities have not been subject to the same law.
But given the court’s current conservative majority, university leaders and student advocates fear that there will be an outright ban on affirmative action across all campuses.
- Phong Nguyen, Stanford student and participant of the 22% Campaign, a student-led diversity initiative: “A huge part of what has made my experience at Stanford University so enjoyable are those cultures that I’ve been exposed to.”
Besides an overall drop in diversity among students — particularly those in the science, technology, engineering and math fields — school officials are concerned that a ban will limit their ability to consider applications holistically. And students from underrepresented communities might also be discouraged to apply to private schools fearing they are not welcomed on campus.
But some students would support the expected court ruling, arguing that affirmative action leads to more “racial divisions.”
- Seamus Callaghan, Stanford student and president of the Stanford College Republicans: “It does nothing to address the underlying causes of continued racial disparities.”
In other college news: CalMatters’ higher education reporter Mikhail Zinshteyn writes about the likely termination of a 2021 program, which was intended to enroll workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic in college courses by giving them grants.
The one-time state program awarded eligible workers as much as $2,500 each, and totaled more than $500 million. But because of the looming $31.5 billion state budget shortfall, Newsom proposed to sunset the program in his May spending proposal. Others agree, including the Assembly budget committee, a Senate subcommittee on education and the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Though the program was supposed to aid 190,000 people, only about 6,000 people have benefited so far, amounting to $24 million in grants. By winding down the program in the 2023-24 budget year, the state would get back roughly $480 million.
For those interested in the program, there’s still time to apply, but not much. The deadline to submit is June 15 and workers must be enrolled in a college program by June 30.
3 Fiona Ma aims for No. 2 job
State Treasurer Fiona Ma put the rumors to rest that she might run for governor. Instead, she announced Wednesday that she will seek to become lieutenant governor in 2026.
It’s the latest round of campaign musical chairs, as ambitious Democrats position themselves for the limited number of statewide offices that are available. Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego and Kevin de Leon, former Assemblymember and Senate president and now embattled Los Angeles City Councilmember, also have substantial money in lieutenant governor campaign accounts, but haven’t committed.
If successful, Ma would become the first Asian American and second woman in the role. The first, Eleni Kounalakis, has already announced she’s running for governor.
- Ma, in a statement: “With more than two decades of experience in public office, I am uniquely qualified to be California’s second-highest ranking elected official — where I will continue to be a powerful advocate for improving our state’s housing supply, environment, education systems and economy.”
Ma overcame some scandals to win a second term as treasurer last November. Before that, she served on the state Board of Equalization and in the state Assembly.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California public transit agencies warn they are facing a “fiscal cliff,” but so far their pleas for state aid haven’t progressed.l
CalMatters columnist Jim Newton: The boom of warehouses in the Inland Empire has mostly created low-wage jobs that automation could soon end.
Other things worth your time
Facing sweltering summers, Newsom floats plan for state to buy energy // AP News
Health care coalition jockeys over Medi-Cal spending, eyes ballot measure // California Healthline
Lawmakers, Big Tech clash on self-driving truck regulations // The Sacramento Bee
Meta threatens to block news in California over journalism bill // The Washington Post
Lawmakers press Newsom to spend health insurance penalties // Los Angeles Times
Can ‘social housing’ help solve California’s housing crisis? // The Mercury News
Here’s where richest and poorest SF residents are moving // San Francisco Chronicle
Study looks at congestion pricing for LA drivers on freeways // Los Angeles Times
With fentanyl deaths soaring, LA County is giving out drug pipes and other supplies // Los Angeles Times
PG&E settles for $50M after charges in 2020 Zogg Fire dismissed // The Sacramento Bee
UC Berkeley continues with People’s Park student housing despite resistance // EdSource
Southern California hotel workers to vote on strike authorization // Los Angeles Times
Oakland hit with class-action lawsuit over ransomware attack // East Bay Times
San Jose police fail to fill vacant racial equity role // San Jose Spotlight
Opinion: Chesa Boudin: Why I’m not running for office in 2024 // San Francisco Chronicle