California Legislature kills and weakens bills in final push
The final, frenetic week of the Legislature is as much about bills that don’t get through — or get watered down significantly — as those that do pass and reach Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, or the big, last-minute deals:
- Legislative staff unionizing: Past efforts to allow California legislative staffers to unionize have failed for at least 23 years. But Assembly Bill 1 passed the Senate Tuesday and will head to the governor after a final sign-off from the Assembly, explains CalMatters’ state Capitol reporter Sameea Kamal. To get that far, compromises were made. New lawmakers, for example, could dismiss their predecessor’s staffers. And in July the bill was amended to delay when staffers could organize from 2024 to 2026. Still, the bill’s author, Democratic Assemblymember Tina McKinnor of Inglewood, was happy with the results and has “faith” Newsom will give his go-ahead. For more on the measure, including what its critics say, read Sameea’s story.
- Climate change: A first-in-the-nation bill that would require companies that make more than $1 billion in annual revenue to disclose greenhouse gas emissions has been weakened before reaching the governor, according to CalMatters’ climate reporter Alejandro Lazo. SB 253 would give the 5,300 covered companies that do business with California until 2030 before they would be fined for inaccurately reporting data for certain indirect sources of emissions. And emission reports from suppliers and consumers wouldn’t begin until 2027. Also, oil companies successfully turned a proposal that would have tripled fines on air pollution, into a two-year bill, reports The Mercury News.
- UC labor standards: The University of California breathed a sigh of relief as a proposal to amend the state constitution and require the UC to conform to the same labor standards as other public agencies failed to advance out of a Senate committee Monday. The proposal has been backed by labor groups, but Democratic Sen. Steve Glazer, chairperson of the Senate elections and constitutional amendments committee, said during the hearing that it would create an “incredibly slippery slope” that would jeopardize the independence of the UC.
A reminder that CalMatters is tracking bills that are being sent to Newsom. Tuesday, that list grew:
- SB 447, by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, would replace a state travel ban to states with anti-LGBTQ laws with a promotional fund to encourage tolerance.
- AB 316, by Democratic Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry of Davis and Laura Friedman of Burbank, would put limits on big, self-driving trucks.
- SB 423 and SB 4, both by Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, would make it easier to build housing.
- SB 389, by Democratic Sen. Ben Allen of Redondo Beach, spells out the state’s powers to investigate water claims.
- AB 418, by Democratic Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel of Woodland Hills, would ban some chemicals in food — but not the one that made it known as the “Skittles ban.”
- AB 5, by Democratic Assemblymember Rick Zbur of Santa Monica, would require teachers to undergo annual training to support LGBTQ students. And SB 760, by Democratic Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton, would require schools to have at least one gender-neutral bathroom, beginning in 2026.
- SB 2, by Democratic Sen. Anthony Portantino of Glendale, would maintain some of California’s concealed-carry weapons laws after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year.
- Two bills from Atkins seek to close remaining gaps in California’s abortion protection and access network. SB 487 would prohibit health insurers and the state from penalizing abortion providers who have been sanctioned in other states. SB 385, already signed into law, would allow trained physician assistants to conduct surgical abortions without direct supervision by a physician.
CalMatters covers the Capitol: CalMatters has guides to keep track of your lawmakers, explore the Legislature’s record diversity, make your voice heard, understand how state government works and to find out what Gov. Newsom decides on key bills.
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1 Newsom announces China trip on climate
From CalMatters state Capitol reporter Alexei Koseff:
Is Gavin Newsom looking for his Richard Nixon moment?
The governor announced Tuesday night that he will travel to China next month to build on California’s past collaborations on climate change in the country, framing the trip as an outstretched hand at a time of rising geopolitical tensions.
“Divorce is not an option,” Newsom said during an interview hosted by Politico California. “The importance, the imperative of maintaining a relationship on climate with China is about the fate and future of this planet and it’s too important. It’s another example of where California needs to lead.”
His two immediate predecessors, former Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, made their own climate-focused sojourns to China while in office, and Brown even founded a California-China Climate Institute after he termed out.
But suspicion of China has dramatically increased since then, particularly among Republicans, and relations with the United States are at an ebb.
Newsom said Tuesday night that he does not know whether he will get an audience with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as Brown did in 2017, emphasizing California’s subnational partnerships in the country. His office declined to provide additional details on the trip. The governor, who has made climate action a priority, already plans to attend Climate Week in New York City next week.
The governor also again slammed a federal judge who has blocked San Francisco from clearing homeless encampments until it makes more shelter beds available. City officials have appealed the ruling, arguing that it has prevented them from addressing public health and safety concerns, even as many people are rejecting shelter offers.
Newsom said the judge was using a “perverse interpretation” of previous court rulings to maintain the injunction on clearing encampments and announced that his administration would file an amicus brief in the case.
“I’ve had it. We’re going to intervene,” he said. “ I hope this goes to the Supreme Court. And that’s a hell of a statement for a progressive Democrat. But it’s just gone too far. People’s lives are at risk.”
2 How to stop hate
Hate crimes are on the rise in California.
The Attorney General’s office reported a 20% overall increase in hate crimes in 2022, with even bigger increases against transgender people (up 55%), Muslims (up 39%) and Black people (up 27%).
Originally developed in response to the rise of anti-Asian hate incidents during the pandemic, the Stop the Hate campaign aims to help respond to hate crimes that take a marked toll on individuals and communities. The grants will go to more than 170 community groups and include the LGBTQ+ civil rights organization Equality California, the Black Youth Leadership Project in Elk Grove and San Francisco-based PRC, which helps Black transgender women reenter the workforce. Read more about how the cash is being spent.
The money is part of a three-year plan, and the new funds will bring the state’s non-law enforcement anti-hate spending to more than $200 million since 2021. Whether lawmakers will continue these funds to community groups is unclear. The state also has a nine-member Commission on the State of Hate, which monitors hate activity and hosts events, though the law establishing the commission is scheduled to sunset by 2027.
In the meantime, hate researchers say that when government leaders take strong stands against hate, incidents decrease — a relevant piece of information given next year’s elections, when researchers anticipate tensions will ramp up even more.
- Brian Levin, Commission on the State of Hate member: “We are very concerned about an increase next year. Mainstream politics has gotten not only more tribal, but also more bigoted.”
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Gov. Gavin Newsom may regret his promises to Black Californians about filling a U.S. Senate seat and providing reparations for slavery.
More transparency is how to make private biological labs safer, writes Allison Berke, the chemical and biological weapons nonproliferation program director at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey.
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