Which bills are California ‘housing killers?’
The California Chamber of Commerce has its annual “job killer” list, with a track record of spiking bills that is the envy of other industry groups. By its count, only 58 of the 824 bills labeled “job killers” between 1997 and 2022 made it into law without at least significant changes it wanted.
Similarly, California homebuilders have their own list of housing bills they oppose, though it’s lesser known and shorter-lived.
The California Building Industry Association’s “housing killers” are bills that it says would make the housing crisis worse by “increasing cost, time, and hurdles to build homes.”
For the current session, the list has six bills, including Assembly Bill 68, which was designed to streamline approvals for “climate smart” urban housing. But the association says the measure would “considerably increase” housing costs by “only allowing for much more expensive multi-family high rise homes to be built.”
AB 1000 also landed on the list. It would restrict warehouses from within 1,000 feet of homes, schools and hospitals. The association says that amounts to a “de facto ban” that would “exacerbate supply chain issues,” “push more trade away from California ports and devastate housing production in the process.”
Only one bill on the list is still alive — a record that could rival the Chamber’s success. That’s Senate Bill 253, which would require the California Air Resources Board to adopt regulations, including ones for companies, to report carbon emissions from homebuilding products. In an alert this week, the association says the measure would add costly delays and expenses to housing production.
- Dan Dunmoyer, president and CEO of CBIA: “This Housing Killer bill would make our housing crisis worse as home prices and rents soar in California.”
The association puts a more positive spin by also highlighting “housing creators” — bills that would “reduce barriers to home construction or help address the need for more houses in California.”
But the only measure on that list is dead for the session: SB 405, which would have required planning agencies to provide notice to owners of sites included in local housing inventory reports.
The association — made up of homebuilders, contractors, architects, engineers, designers, suppliers and others in the development industry — says that to avoid housing becoming even more unaffordable, California needs to produce 180,000 new homes a year. But it has averaged fewer than 80,000 annually over the last 10 years.
More Capitol news: Women rule, more than ever.
There are a record 50 women in the Legislature, up from 39 before the 2022 election. And now, for the first time in its 15-year run, women are a majority on Capitol Weekly’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the state Capitol (who aren’t elected officials).
Indeed, five of the top six are women: Dana Williamson, top aide to Gov. Gavin Newsom (official title: executive secretary); Ann Patterson, Newsom’s cabinet secretary; Christy Bouma, Newsom’s legislative secretary; Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the first partner; and Dee Dee Myers, head of Newsom’s Office of Business and Economic Development. (You’ll notice that Newsom’s name comes up a lot, which speaks to the power of the governor’s office and Newsom’s more aggressive role in policymaking.)
Rich Ehisen, Capitol Weekly’s editor in chief, notes that the Legislature is fast approaching gender parity.
- Ehisen: “Speaking of parity, we beat the Legislature to the punch: this year’s list is majority female. It is the first time this has happened, but likely not the last.”
He freely admits that the list is subjective, though it is the product of dozens of conversations of people in and around the Capitol. After taking over the weekly in January, he says he made a “conscious choice” to include more legislative chiefs of staff, policy experts, and consultants “who often toil in obscurity but who make the wheels turn on a daily basis,” as well as candidate recruiters.
With those changes, there are 30-plus who weren’t on the 2022 list. Most of the fresh faces haven’t been on the list ever.
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Other Stories You Should Know
1 Newsom deals on mental health money
Policymaking often involves a lot of give and take. That truism came to a head Tuesday night, when Newsom announced a handful of concessions for his proposal to redirect funds from the Mental Health Services Act.
Some quick context: The act levies a tax on millionaires and the proceeds go toward funding county mental health services. Newsom wants to reroute more of that money to help address homelessness. This set off red flags from health providers and county officials who said this would cut mental health services, particularly for youth — an argument later supported by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
As CalMatters’ health reporter Kristen Hwang explains, Newsom’s amendments address some of these criticisms, leaving most of the $448 million annually spent on youth mental health programs untouched. His concessions also include exempting certain small counties from meeting some mandates, and reinstating some of the power previously stripped from the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Committee.
But the governor’s most sweeping change — designating two-thirds of the money, or $3.1 billion a year, for housing and for services for unhoused people — remains.
So disability rights groups and other advocates remain unhappy with Newsom’s proposal.
- Clare Cortright, policy director for Cal Voices: “We’re still slicing up the too-small pie. What happens to the people with services now? What happens to the people with housing now?”
The proposal will get its first full legislative hearing next week, and lawmakers only have a month to get it on the March 2024 ballot.
In other legislative news: That very contentious bill to increase penalties for child sex trafficking was sent Wednesday to the Assembly Appropriations Committee suspense file, where bills with any significant financial impact go, but can get quickly killed in a rather opaque process.
Sen. Shannon Grove, a Bakersfield Republican and the bill’s author, said the committee, while evaluating the cost of incarcerating traffickers, should also consider the price for treating victims and survivors. But she also said money shouldn’t be the deciding factor.
- Grove, in a statement: “There is no price tag that can be placed on a victim of human trafficking, especially a child. Selling a child to be raped over and over again is a crime so grotesque, immoral and barbaric it should be prevented and stopped at any cost.”
Before landing in the suspense file, the bill received a lot of attention after Democrats on the Assembly Public Safety Committee initially voted down the measure in July, though it passed with bipartisan support in the Senate. But after public outcry and protests from Republicans — as well as intervention by Newsom and Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas — the committee pulled an about-face and passed the bill three days later.
2 2024 ballot takes shape
There’s a chance that a measure to make it easier for local governments to raise taxes will appear on California’s November 2024 ballot — and Republicans aren’t having it.
Wednesday, a handful of GOP legislators gathered at the state Capitol to add their voices against a proposed state constitutional amendment that would lower the share of votes required to approve taxes and bonds from two-thirds to 55% of the voting population.
Because most approved local bond measures are paid by increasing property taxes, anti-tax and many business groups oppose the effort. They argue the amendment would make it easier for local governments to hike taxes and raise debt, and essentially weaken 1978’s Proposition 13, which caps local taxation.
- Senate GOP leader Brian Jones of El Cajon: “This measure wrongly chips away at the critical taxpayer protections by making it easier for greedy, special interests and politicians to raise taxes at the local level.”
The amendment still needs to make it out of the Democratic-controlled Legislature, but if it passes it will be slated on a crowded November 2024 ballot. (At Wednesday’s event, Republican Sen. Roger Niello of Roseville said California voters “do not have a history of imposing additional taxes on themselves.”)
Back in November 2022, voters decided the fate of only seven measures; three passed, including one that upheld the state’s ban on flavored tobacco. But the number of statewide measures in November 2024 may likely blow past that: To date, seven measures have qualified for that ballot, with more expected on the way.
On Tuesday, conservative former San Diego City councilmember Carl DeMaio submitted a constitutional amendment to the attorney general’s office called “California Election Integrity Initiative,” which would require individuals to present a valid ID for in-person voting and counties to maintain accurate voter lists.
And another measure currently pending review would allow independent solar “microgrid” farms to operate outside the regulation of electrical corporations.
Speaking of elections: Most California voters, regardless of party, say political disinformation is a big problem, according to a poll out Wednesday.
But — shocker — there’s little consensus on whom to trust for information, the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies survey found. To wit, 58% of voters surveyed said they had a low level of trust in political and election information from “mainstream media,” including newspapers, radio, TV and websites. Only 15% of Republicans said they trusted mainstream news sources.
An even higher number — 79% — said they didn’t trust Facebook and other social media.
Another interesting result from the poll: While 64% of regular voters reported being contacted several times a week or more by campaigns in the run-up to the 2022 elections, far fewer infrequent voters; Latino, Black and Asian American voters; low-income voters and renters reported being contacted.
3 When can body cam footage be evidence?
Police body camera footage is becoming more commonplace. But should it be considered a valid statement in court, in place of in-person testimony?
This week, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled “no.”
According to CalMatters’ criminal justice reporter Nigel Duara, the decision stems from a March 2019 case in which a woman called 911 as someone tried to break into the house where she was working. When the police arrived, the woman told an officer wearing a body camera that her boyfriend kicked in the door and attacked her.
The woman recanted parts of her story days later (a common occurrence with victims of intimate partner violence) and she didn’t show up at the trial despite a subpoena. Though the case was ultimately dismissed, Los Angeles County prosecutors were able to use the body camera footage of the woman’s account — classifying it as a “spontaneous statement” that can be used as evidence in court — to revoke the boyfriend’s probation.
On appeal, he said using the recording as testimony violated his right to confront his accuser. But the attorney general’s office argued that probation hearings are “flexible” and probationers aren’t entitled to “the full array of constitutional rights available to defendants at criminal trials.”
That wasn’t enough to convince California’s high court, however.
The new ruling just limits the use of statements made on camera. As body cams become more common in California police departments, footage can still be used as evidence in court and in disciplinary proceedings against police officers, such as fatal police shootings.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: The Legislature is skirting key issues, including a crisis in the availability of fire insurance.
Speeding cameras will protect people of color, not target them, writes Darnell Grisby, a California Transportation Commission member and senior vice president at Beneficial State Foundation.
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