California State Legislature Passes Emergency Funding for COVID-19 Response Activities

Earlier today (March 16), Governor Newsom sent a letter to the California Legislature urging action to support the state of emergency he declared on March 4. In his letter he provides a statement, as required by the Constitution, waiving the 72-hour rule – the constitutional requirement for bills to be in print for 72 hours before they can be acted upon. This is the first time this provision has been invoked since enacted in 2016, thus clearing a way for budget bills to be quickly amended and passed by the Legislature.

Today, both the Senate and Assembly convened for their regularly scheduled floor session. Upon convening, both houses quickly caucused to deliberate on key bills amended that day, which include SB 89 to provides funding related to the Governor’s state of emergency declaration and SB 117 relates to education finance and includes $100 million for school cleaning.

SB 89 adds the following to the Budget Act of 2019:

  • Appropriates $500 million General Fund to any of the purposes under the Governor’s March 4 proclamation of a state of emergency.
  • Requires the Director of Finance to notify the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, in writing, of the intended purposes of the planned expenditure at least 72 hours in advance of expending the funds.
  • Allows the Joint Legislative Budget Committee to shorten the 72-hour period upon written notification.
  • Allows the appropriation to be increased in increments of $50 million after the Director of Finance notifies the Joint Legislative Budget Committee of the need.
  • Limits the total appropriation to $1 billion.
  • State the intent of the Legislature that the Administration work with stakeholders and the Legislature in developing proposals to assist individuals, non-profits, and small businesses experiencing hardships due to COVID-19.
  • Appropriates $84.1 million General Fund to complete tree removal operations in Butte County related to the Camp Fire.

The Assembly reconvened late in the 4 o’clock hour, took action to waive the necessary rules to allow the bills to be heard, and passed SB 89 with a vote of 68-0. Assembly Budget Committee Chair Ting referenced the bill as necessary to give the Governor the tools he needs, while other members chimed in with bipartisan support for the budget bill acknowledging the “crisis” at hand. The Assembly also passed SB 117. The bills were immediately transmitted to the Senate.

Upon reconvening in the 5 o’clock hour, Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins provided brief remarks, noting “it can’t be business as usual, and it can’t be no business at all.”  Soon after, the Senate took similar actions clearing the way for both bills to be heard. Budget and Fiscal Review Committee Chair Holly Mitchell provided a brief overview of SB 89, also followed by a bipartisan display of support. Senator Wiener specifically urged that this funding be a down payment to rebuilding the public health system to ensure this never happens again and that we are prepared to respond in the future. The Senate passed SB 89 with a vote of 32-0 and SB 117 with a vote of 31-0. The bills now head to the Governor’s desk for action.