California Legislature could boost night markets

Your guide to California policy and politics
Lynn La BY Lynn La July 18, 2023
Presented by Dairy Cares, Southern California Gas Company, Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership and Politifest 2023

California Legislature could boost night markets

From CalMatters’ politics/California Divide intern Rya Jetha:

Have you ever enjoyed a night market in East Asia? Or hoped to experience the delicious food and lively atmosphere of one? Good news: There may be many more night markets coming soon to California.

A new bill unveiled Monday is trying to pave the way for night markets and farmers’ markets by cutting red tape and costs. Currently, the California Department of Public Health does not have a streamlined permitting process for regularly occurring market events. 

Assembly Bill 441 would change that by creating a dedicated permit, Democratic Assemblymember Matt Haney said Monday in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco, where a new night market will open Sept. 15.

“There’s no constituency in California calling for more red tape and paperwork,” said Haney. “Part of bringing culture and business back into our downtown means removing barriers and cutting through unnecessary bureaucracy.”

Haney was joined by San Francisco Supervisor Joel Engardio, who was inspired to bring night markets to the Bay Area after a trip to Taipei, a city famous for its night markets. 

“As we address the serious issues facing San Francisco, a night market reminds us why our city is worth fighting for by creating more joy,” said Engardio. “It also brings people together, makes streets safer, and helps small businesses.”

Night markets are not unheard of in California: 626 Night Market, the largest Asia-inspired night market festival in the United States, began in the San Gabriel Valley in 2012. The festival now takes place across California during the summer, boasting hundreds of food vendors, stores, games and live shows. 

This may seem like an odd time to announce a new bill, considering the Legislature went on a month-long break Friday. In its past life, the subject of AB 441 was an earned income tax credit. However, Haney withdrew the bill from committee in April. The bill analysis said it could result in a revenue loss of millions of dollars at a time when California has a budget deficit of more than $30 billion.

Lawmakers are limited in how many bills they can introduce — for the Assembly, it’s 50 for the session — so sometimes resort to the controversial “gut and amend” process, whereby they gut a bill and use it as a vehicle for new legislation. In this case, instead of a bill to help poorer families, Haney is substituting a proposal to boost culture and cities.


CalMatters turns 8: It’s our birthday! CalMatters celebrates eight years informing Californians about policy and politics and holding officials accountable. We have done award-winning work and more is on the horizon. Read more from our engagement team.

More kudos for CalMatters: An investigation by CalMatters’ Robert Lewis on how California sends its toxic waste out of state is one of three finalists selected by the Institute for Nonprofit News for best investigative journalism in the large division. The winner will be announced Aug. 23.


1 When you’re funded by a ‘sin’ tax

California cigarette tax stamps on packs of cigarettes at a liquor store in Los Angeles. Photo by Jonathan Alcorn, Reuters

A bill to phase out all tobacco sales in California didn’t get very far this session. One reason: The hit on programs funded by tobacco taxes.

That’s coming home to roost for First 5 California youth programs. Across the state, First 5 funds a number of programs that offer services including children’s mobile immunization clinics, dental services, parenting classes and home visits from a nurse for first-time mothers.

About 73% of First 5’s annual budget is funded by tobacco tax dollars, but with fewer and fewer Californians taking up smoking each year (one study found that from 1989 to 2019, the state’s smoking population dropped from 22% to 10%), First 5 leaders say they must cut back on programs, reports CalMatters’ health reporter Ana B. Ibarra.

The decline of funds accelerated last year when voters passed Proposition 31, which upheld a state law banning the sale of flavored tobacco products.

The first year after voters passed a proposition to dedicate tobacco tax money to youth programs, First 5 received about $690 million in cigarette tax revenue in 1999-2000. Last spring, First 5 projected it would receive approximately $348 million from the tax this budget year. And after Prop. 31, First 5 estimates it may only receive $280 million by 2026. 

Some programs are already feeling the budget crunch: First 5 in Stanislaus County recently cut one of its programs that provided support for pregnant women and mothers of babies up to a year old. In June, a report from the Kern County grand jury concluded that its local First 5 would need to find additional revenue streams other than tobacco “to offset this downward spiral.”

But that’s the tricky thing about taxes on products that are considered harmful. If a program is funded on behavior that officials wish to curb, what happens when efforts are ultimately successful?

  • Amy Travis, executive director of First 5 Kern County: “We know it (tax) works. We know tobacco use is declining, so I think it’s a matter of asking what’s next? Is that alcohol, marijuana, sugary beverages?”

2 CA gets money over Trump border wall

A unfinished section of the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego on Feb. 2, 2021. Photo by Mike Blake, Reuters
A unfinished section of the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego on Feb. 2, 2021. Photo by Mike Blake, Reuters

Two times during the Trump years, California led a coalition of states suing the administration, claiming it was illegally diverting tax money to build the border wall.

Now, there’s a new president. And on Monday, California’s attorney general announced a settlement with the Biden administration to stop the disputed wall construction and provide money to help restore environmental damage.

Specifically, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will give the state $25 million to help an environmental nonprofit buy 1,200 acres (known as the Otay Village 14 property) in San Diego County near the border — or if the group can’t come up with the other $35 million, to fund conservation projects in the Proctor Valley/Lower Otay Lakes area. Under the settlement, the department will also provide $1.1 million to monitor endangered species and install wildlife passages in the border area for those animals.

  • Attorney General Rob Bonta, in a statement: “The Trump Border Wall is officially a relic of the past, which is where it belongs. With environmental mitigation projects coming online to protect our sensitive ecosystem along the U.S.-Mexico border and the confirmation of over $427 million in funding restored for military construction projects, today’s settlement ushers in a new beginning.”

In other legal developments: The California State University issued its latest reports Monday on the series of sexual harassment cases that have scarred the system and forced a change in leadership.

The reports, from an outside law firm hired by the system, say that CSU must hire more staff and overhaul its bureaucracy to protect students and staff, according to CalMatters’ higher education reporter Mikhail Zinshteyn.

  • Cozen O’Connor law firm, in the report: “Consistent themes that we heard from all participating constituents included institutional betrayal and grave disappointment in response to these incidents.”

Another independent report on the system’s handling of sexual misconduct claims landed today: The California State Auditor published its findings that CSU did not adequately or consistently address some allegations following a 2022 request from lawmakers.

3 For this legislator, personal is political

Assemblymember Lori D. Wilson, a Democrat from Suisun City, chats with legislators during session at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 22, 2022. Photo by Rahul Lal, CalMatters
Assemblymember Lori Wilson chats with legislators during session at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 22, 2022. Photo by Rahul Lal, CalMatters

For most legislators, last Thursday was noteworthy as the final day before their month-long summer recess. But for Assemblymember Lori Wilson, it was significant in a much more personal way — right after session ended, Wilson underwent what she hopes to be her last round of chemotherapy.

“I’m very happy to be done with this chapter of treatment,” Wilson told me Thursday.

Since announcing she was seeking treatment for breast cancer in April, fellow Democrats and Republicans alike have rallied in support of Wilson. On July 10, they posed for a photo on the Assembly floor to mark Breast Cancer Awareness. Besides her staff, the Suisun City Democrat also thanked her colleagues for accommodating committee hearings — switching file orders and the like — so that she can present bills when she has the most energy to do so. 

“The only silver lining about my treatment is that it has very predictable days,” said Wilson. Because of that, setting boundaries is crucial. Within the first few days after receiving treatment, her staff knows to let her rest. But as the days pass and she regains her strength, her schedule fills up. 

The personal and political overlap for her in other ways at the state Capitol. Wilson is the only one of 120 lawmakers with an out transgender child. She authored a bill that would enable judges to consider a parent’s affirmation of a child’s gender identity or expression when it comes to granting custody. 

When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other conservative public figures caught wind of the proposal, Wilson recalled that her office began to receive death threats. The vitriol she received prompted her to sit down with her son and get his assurance that he would not put himself in harm’s way over the measure.

“I was like, ‘If people are talking to you and using my name, then they’re talking about this (bill). So you don’t even have to engage and you don’t have to defend your mom.'”

In anticipation of her birthday, which was on Monday, Wilson said she will likely rest since she’ll be too fatigued from chemotherapy. Still, she’s determined to remain in good spirits, viewing this challenge as something she simply must go through.

“I can’t avoid it. At the end of it, I can be depressed, angry and upset,” she told me. “Or I can be joyful and full of life, like how I carry my life anyway. I chose to be that — that I would do that all the way through.”


CalMatters Commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters is away and will return July 24.

There’s a misperception that the California Coastal Commission is anti-housing, responds Donne Brownsey, chairperson of the California Coastal Commission.


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