Final week frenzy for California Legislature
It’s the final week of the 2023 legislative session, so anyone connected to the state Capitol — lawmakers, staffers, lobbyists and, yes, reporters — will be super-busy.
Key dates: Thursday (or early Friday) — the Legislature is set to end its session with about 740 active bills to get through. And today — the final day for last-minute bills to be put into print in time for a vote on Thursday.
One potential measure that is being closely watched is a homeowner insurance rescue. Three large companies — Allstate, Farmers and State Farm — have stopped writing new policies, partly blaming the cost of claims from wildfires. That legislation could include allowing insurers to charge higher rates and account for future claims from natural disasters.
Depending who’s speaking, the package is dead — or not. Sen. Bill Dodd, a Napa Democrat on the Senate insurance committee, told the San Francisco Chronicle that it’s all but buried. But others involved in the negotiations aren’t giving up yet.
- Assembly Insurance Committee Chairperson Lisa Calderon, in a Friday joint statement with Assemblymember Jim Wood, a committee member: “Our goals are to protect homeowners and businesses to ensure all Californians can access and retain comprehensive insurance coverage — from first-time home buyers to hard-working Californians in and around wildfire-prone areas.”
To help you keep track of the final flurry of lawmaking, the CalMatters team put together a list of significant bills that have won full legislative approval — what they would do, who’s in favor and who’s opposed, and why it matters.
Read the first version and bookmark the page here. We’ll be updating it throughout this week — and then keeping track of whether Gov. Gavin Newsom signs the bills into law or vetoes them instead.
One contentious bill on his desk would penalize school boards that ban books based solely on the materials’ inclusion of history related to Black, Latino, Asian, Native American, LGBTQ people and other groups.
As CalMatters K-12 reporter Carolyn Jones explains, the bill is authored by Democratic Assemblymember Corey Jackson from Moreno Valley, and came about in response to the hundreds of book bans carried out by Florida school districts. The measure also would amend the existing education code, which requires teaching materials to include the experiences and perspectives of diverse racial, ethnic and LGBTQ groups in curriculum.
Newsom and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond support the measure — particularly after the governor faced off with the Temecula Valley Unified school board over its initial rejection of state-approved textbooks that included a lesson about gay rights leader Harvey Milk. (After the governor moved to send the books to students directly and bill the district, the school board reversed course and agreed to purchase the textbooks.)
But despite the bill undergoing many changes since it was introduced, the California School Boards Association remains opposed to it. It argues that the state already has a lengthy public process for adopting curricula, that there are existing complaint processes for the public to protest textbooks and that the public has opportunities to weigh in on textbooks during annual reviews.
The association also contends that the bill could further inflame tensions between the state and local school boards. “We understand the motivations behind the bill, and we agree on the importance of students having access to inclusive textbooks. But we think there are less inflammatory ways to handle this,” said association spokesman, Troy Flint.
Other Stories You Should Know
1 State workers ratify contracts
Big news for California’s biggest union of state workers: SEIU Local 1000, the umbrella union for nine out of the state’s 21 bargaining units, announced Saturday that it has voted to ratify its tentative agreement with the Newsom administration. State workers have argued that wages have not kept up with the rising cost of living in California and inflation. The new contract would impact about 100,000 state workers and includes a 10% general salary increase over the next three years, as well as recruiting and retention bonuses and a health insurance stipend.
The union for state law enforcement, which includes California Highway Patrol dispatchers and park rangers, also approved its tentative bargaining agreement on Friday. The deal for the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, which represents about 7,300 workers, includes a 7% salary increase through 2025 and increased bonus pay for night shifts, reports The Sacramento Bee. In its fiscal review of the agreement, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said it would increase annual state costs by $133 million by 2025‑26.
- Alan Barcelona, union president, in a statement: “Together, we achieved a high number of Special Salary Adjustments and other items … that work to increase paychecks. Our goal was to uplift earnings and to protect benefits. … We are humbled and grateful that our members recognize we are stronger together.”
The analyst’s office also released its review of the union contract for state prison doctors, which represents about 1,500 workers. The deal includes a 5.5% general salary boost through 2025 and would cost the state $83 million. In its report, the analyst’s office acknowledges that bumping pay could help the state’s “significant” issues with recruiting and retaining physicians, which is a “cause for concern.”
It also reiterated that with the session wrapping up this week, this labor deal, similar to other state labor contracts, was not submitted in a timeframe that gave the Legislature enough time for proper review.
2 Pelosi and Newsom talk 2024
Two California political figures have made their 2024 election plans a little clearer.
First up: U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi told volunteers on Friday that she plans to seek another term in Congress next year.
Pelosi’s campaign, in a later tweet, said she wanted to “advance San Francisco values and further our recovery.” The San Francisco Democrat also told Politico that she wants to raise money and help block President Trump from returning to the White House.
Another reelection campaign was far from certain for Pelosi, who lost the speaker’s gavel to Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield last year when California helped flip control to Republicans. With no guarantee that Democrats will retake the House next year — or that Democrats would pick her as speaker again even if they did — some speculated that Pelosi, 83, might call it quits after 36 years.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, another San Francisco Democrat, certainly was preparing for that possibility by getting a congressional campaign going. Now he’s blocked a while longer, as are other ambitious politicians eyeing his legislative seat.
Wiener, who can stay in the Legislature until 2028 if he wants, seemed to take the news in stride, at least publicly. “Loving our work in the Senate! We’re moving major housing, climate & mental health bills to the finish line,” he tweeted.
Speaking of speculation, Gov. Newsom said, again, that he’s still not running for president in 2024. This time it was on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
He had a clear message for donors, or anyone else, who thinks that President Biden won’t be the Democratic nominee next year: “It’s time to move on. Let’s go.”
- Newsom, to Chuck Todd (hosting his final show): “I think there’s been so much wallowing in the last few months, and hand wringing in this respect. But we’re gearing up for the campaign.”
Newsom even went as far to say that if Biden somehow steps aside, it would be Vice President Kamala Harris — fellow California Democrat and longtime political frenemy — who would be next in line, not him. “It’s the Biden-Harris administration,” he said. “Maybe I’m a little old-fashioned.”
Asked if he would compete against Harris, Newsom replied: “Of course not. … Won’t happen.”
Another thing that won’t happen: He said he won’t appoint Rep. Barbara Lee to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein if she steps down because that would be unfair to Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff, who are also running for U.S. Senate (and ahead of Lee in the early polling).
Newsom said he’d keep his pledge to appoint a Black woman to serve out Feinstein’s term, but would much prefer not to appoint anyone at all — to avoid the politically awkward fact of having handpicked both California’s U.S. senators. In 2021, he appointed Alex Padilla, the state’s first Latino U.S. senator, who won a full six-year term last year.
- Newsom: “I don’t want to make another appointment, and I don’t think the people of California want me to make another appointment.”
But his comments didn’t sit well with Lee, who said she was “troubled.” In a statement, she said that the idea that a Black woman would be picked “only as a caretaker to simply check a box is insulting to countless Black women across this country who have carried the Democratic Party to victory election after election.”
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Southern California’s big bet on ports and shipping may run aground on California’s climate goals.
Black students can barely afford Cal State now. Trustees should reject more tuition hikes, writes Isaac Alferos, a higher education equity researcher and community organizer who was Cal State Student Association president in 2021-22.
Other things worth your time
New poll: CA voters oppose paying reparations for slavery // Los Angeles Times
Fossil fuel interests turn up heat against emissions disclosure bill // Capital & Main
California lawmakers close in on deal for $25 health care minimum wage // Politico
Legislation aims to strengthen oversight of California water rights // Los Angeles Times
Elon Musk’s X sues CA over content moderation law // AP News
Atkins bill aimed at improving county jails amended again // The San Diego Union-Tribune
Newsom says he would approach COVID differently, but few specifics // Politico
CA had second largest jump in abortions from 2020 to 2023 // San Francisco Chronicle
Court ruling threatens CA ban on unlicensed open carry of handguns // Los Angeles Times
US Senate candidates push for tighter gun laws // Los Angeles Times
YIMBY activists divided over proposed city in Solano County // San Francisco Chronicle
Forest Service sues fireworks firms for deadly El Dorado fire // The Orange County Register