Legislature Returns to Sacramento, Kicks off New Year
California’s Legislature reconvened the second year of their two-year session on Monday with relatively brief floor sessions. Both Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon warmly welcomed their members back to their respective chambers. Pro Tem Atkins acknowledged 2020 would be a very busy year with the Senate first tackling the mountain of two-year bills that need to be dispensed with this month. She also outlined three major issues of concern for the Senate this year including addressing the homelessness crisis, preparing California to respond to wildfires and to review processes for power safety shutoff events, and finally ensuring the 2020 Census, California Primary, and General Election proceed accordingly. Speaker Rendon, in his remarks, referenced the work ahead this year and welcomed two new Assembly staffers – Chief Clerk of the Assembly, Sue Parker and Chief Sergeant at Arms Alisa Buckley. Both were officially sworn into their new roles during Thursday’s floor session.
This month, both houses will have to contend with more than 1,100 legislative proposals that were introduced in 2019 and made into two-year bills. The deadline to move these bills through their house of origin is January 31. One of the hottest topics to be discussed this month includes Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 50, which makes significant changes to local zoning laws allowing for more high-density housing near mass transit hubs. SB 50 has been highly contentious, particularly among local governments, and was shelved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last year. Senator Wiener has made some changes to the bill to address concerns, but it remains to be seen if it has garnered enough support yet to make it out of the Senate.
Expect another hot topic this year to include some fixes to Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez’s AB 5 from last year, which added limitations to the way independent contractors (such as Uber or Door Dash) are employed. Assembly Member Gonzalez has received heavy criticism from various freelance workers impacted by the law (which went into effect January 1st), but has been vocal in her desire to address concerns in clean-up legislation.
Another big proposal was unveiled in the Assembly this week to create a California-specific Green New Deal modeled upon the national plan proposed by New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. AB 1839, authored by Assembly Members Rob Bonta, David Chiu, Ash Kalra, Eloise Gomez Reyes, Shirley Weber, and eight additional Democratic co-authors, is still in spot-bill form, but would seek to reduce homelessness, further cut greenhouse gas emissions, and improve living standards in California’s poor communities over the next 10 years. Assembly Member Bonta indicated that details would be fleshed out during the legislative process and acknowledged the bill would be “expensive but necessary.”
There are a few key changes in the memberships of both houses since last Fall worth noting. On the Senate side, Senator Jeff Stone resigned late last Fall to join the Trump Administration in the US Department of Labor; his seat remains vacant until his replacement is elected during the March primary/special election. In the Assembly, the chamber welcomed new member Megan Dahle, who replaced her husband, Senator Brian Dahle, in a special election held in November 2019.
With 2020 also being an election year, all seats in the Assembly will be up during the March primary and November general election compared to only the odd seats in the Senate. As a final aside, term limits will hit six Senators this year (Jim Beall, Cathleen Galgiani, Jerry Hill, Hannah-Beth Jackson, Bill Monning, and Mike Morrell). In the Assembly, no member is termed out this year; however, eight members have declared their candidacies for various other offices or official retirements (Susan Eggman, Kansen Chu, Jay Obernolte, Monique Limon, Christy Smith, Ian Calderon, Melissa Melendez, and Todd Gloria).
Please see our CHEAC Weekly Bill Chart for specific information on bills of interest to CHEAC.
AB 315 (C. Garcia) – OPPOSE
AB 315, a two-year bill, places restrictions on the use of revenues derived from local agencies by local government associations (such as CHEAC) for lobbying the Legislature or Congress or for educational activities. The measure would add new reporting requirements on local government associations. The bill was originally set to be heard in the Assembly Local Government Committee next week; however, has since been pulled. Assembly Member Garcia has since indicated her intent to introduce legislation to allow the State Auditor to conduct audits on local government associations receiving taxpayer dollars.
SB 793 (Hill) – SUPPORT
Senator Jerry Hill introduced on Monday a revitalized effort to ban sales of all flavored tobacco products statewide, including mint and menthol tobacco products. Recall, Senator Hill carried a similar measure last year (SB 38) which sought to ban all flavored tobacco products; however, Senator Hill ultimately shelved the measure on the Senate Inactive File after receiving hostile amendments which would have exempted certain tobacco products. SB 793 is proposed to go farther than the recently finalized federal rule by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which will prohibit certain flavored cartridge-based electronic cigarettes (except tobacco or menthol flavors).
In rolling out SB 793 this week, Senator Hill unveiled 29 coauthors from both the Senate and Assembly representing both the Democratic and Republican parties. Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis also joined in support of measure, which is sponsored by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Common Sense. CHEAC continues to work closely with the sponsorship coalition in support of the measure to reduce access to all flavored tobacco products and protect Californians from lifelong tobacco-related illnesses and death. We strongly encourage local health departments to support SB 793 and express their support via social media.