A "sanctuary state" bill deal, the emergence of a $4 billion parks and water bond, two new California legal fronts against the Trump administration, and the Mexican foreign minister's visit to the state Capitol – just another Manic Monday as lawmakers begin their final week of work before adjourning for the year.
Here are the highlights from Monday's fast-moving action at the state Capitol, and beyond:
Drug Pricing Bill Passes Crucial Vote
Update at 9:45 p.m.: Drug manufacturers would need to give health plans a 60-day heads up before increasing the list price of a medication under a bill that passed the California Assembly after a drawn-out vote.
The measure, SB 17 by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), would also force health plans to list the top 25 most expensive drugs they buy and detail any recent price jumps.
“There is no question that this industry plays a vital and at time lifesaving role in patient treatment, and we must not stifle innovation,” Asm. Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) said as he brought the bill up for debate Monday. “However, we must put reasonable parameters around pricing practices that in the past have focused too often on what the market will bear.”
The pharmaceutical industry fought the bill, arguing that revealing price hikes in advance would be bad for competition. It's also concerned that suppliers could buy up large amounts of drugs in advance of an announced price hike.
Hernandez authored a similar bill last year, but it was hijacked with hostile amendments in the Assembly Appropriations Committee and the senator chose to drop the measure rather than move it forward.
This year's measure initially fell short of an Assembly majority Monday but eventually passed with half of the Republicans joining every Democrat in support.
It faces a final vote in the Senate this week before advancing to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.
-- Sammy Caiola, Capital Public Radio
Mexico Promises Aid For DACA Recipients
Update at 7:33 p.m.: Mexico is promising aid to DACA recipients, after President Donald Trump’s decision to end the program for young immigrants who came to the U.S. unlawfully as children.
The Mexican Foreign Minister visited California lawmakers Monday and promised to support DACA-recipients facing deportation.
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray Caso met separately with Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democratic leaders of the state Senate and Assembly, where he says they discussed climate change, immigration and trade.
Afterward, at the Mexican Consulate in Sacramento, he met with about two dozen DACA recipients.
Videgaray says his country opposes the program’s repeal, but will gladly accept Mexican-born immigrants forced to leave the U.S. because of it.
"Having 600,000 college educated, well-meaning, law-abiding, talented young people full of energy and creativity, that would be a blessing for Mexico," Videgaray says.
He says the Mexican government will provide legal aid to those who wish to stay in the United States and it’s preparing a list of job opportunities for those who leave.
California lawmakers are preparing their own support for DACA recipients. A bill amended yesterday and supported by Gov. Jerry Brown would add $20 million to the state budget for legal aid.
-- Ben Bradford, Capital Public Radio
California Files 2 Lawsuits--Against Fuel Efficiency And DACA Repeals
Update at 6:52 p.m.: California is taking the Trump administration to court for phasing out the DACA program. State Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the filing Monday.
California becomes the 16th state to challenge the President’s action in court, with three other states joining, as well.
DACA allows immigrants brought to the United States unlawfully as children to avoid deportation and to work here.
The Trump administration rescinded the program, saying President Obama created it through an illegal executive order. The lawsuits argue that’s a pretext -- and quote tweets and public statements from President Trump and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions that call for ending DACA for ideological reasons.
The lawsuit argues ending the program would unconstitutionally deny DACA-recipients equal protection and due process.
The state filed the suit in the Northern District of California, the same court that blocked the President’s executive order on sanctuary cities.
The lawsuit against the DACA repeal is one of two court challenges Attorney General Becerra launched Monday against the Trump administration.
California and four other states have asked a federal appeals court to reinstate higher fines on car manufacturers for violating fuel efficiency standards.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration blocked the rule from taking effect in July, as the agency prepares a full repeal. The lawsuit argues the administration must go through a formal, public process to make the rule change.
-- Ben Bradford, Capital Public Radio
Listen: Changes Made To “Sanctuary State” Bill Address Law Enforcement Concerns
Update at 6:05pm: The agreement on “sanctuary state” legislation between Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León and Gov. Jerry Brown is drawing support from immigrant groups.
“After carefully looking at these amendments, we’ve come to the conclusion that this is going to better the situation for our immigrant families,” says Eddie Carmona with the faith-based advocacy group PICO California. “If it was going to make it any worse, we would not have supported this bill, and we would have abandoned it a long time ago.”
Carmona likes provisions in the final bill that ban immigration authorities from placing “holds” on people in custody; and block the deputization of police as immigration agents.
Listen to Eddie Carmona's interview with Capital Public Radio's Ben Adler
But the latest amendments also appear to address some law enforcement concerns to win the support of the governor.
SB 54, as amended Monday evening, expands the list of crimes for which law enforcement can choose to notify and transfer someone to immigration authorities. The agreement also allows the feds to interview people in custody, and drops a provision that would have banned California law enforcement from sharing their databases for immigration enforcement.
The California State Sheriffs Association, which has led opposition to the bill, declined comment until it reviews the amendments.
But the California Police Chiefs Association has dropped its opposition and moved to neutral. CalChiefs president and Gardena Police Chief Ed Medrano says the compromise “addresses the significant public safety concerns we raised during this debate, and it reaffirms what we have held since the beginning, which is that California law enforcement should not be used to assist in mass deportations.”
Another key vote of support comes from Asm. Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), a former Sacramento County sheriff's captain. “We have addressed several of my initial concerns and have amended SB 54 to ensure that we are only protecting California’s law-abiding immigrants,” he says in a statement.
-- Ben Adler, Capital Public Radio
De León, Brown Reach Deal On “Sanctuary State” Bill
Update at 2:43pm: The author of a bill that seeks to ban California law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration authorities has reached agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown.
“SB 54 will ensure that state and local police are not diverted from protecting our communities in order to enforce federal immigration laws,” Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), who wrote the bill, said in a statement Monday afternoon. “The protections provided by SB 54 will also ensure undocumented residents can report crimes and assist in prosecutions without fear of deportation.”
The governor’s office confirmed the deal. “This bill protects public safety and people who come to California to work hard and make this state a better place,” read a statement from Brown released by De León’s office.
This is the measure that’s been labeled the “sanctuary state” bill – though neither the governor nor De León likes that label.
For months, immigrant advocates and law enforcement groups have battled over how wide-ranging the bill should be. Details of the deal are expected later this afternoon once amendments to SB 54 are published online.
-- Ben Adler, Capital Public Radio
$4 Billion Parks And Water Bond Moves Toward June 2018 Ballot
Update at 12:59 p.m.: California legislative leaders have reached agreement on a bill that would place a $4 billion dollar parks and water bond on the June 2018 ballot.
The bill, SB 5 by Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), splits the money into dozens of different pots – including clean drinking water, drought preparedness, climate change, and several new parks initiatives.
The parks section in particular has some noteworthy items.
There’s $725 million for safe neighborhood parks in disadvantaged communities. And every local government would be guaranteed a chunk of change for their own parks projects: $200,000 for each city and $400,000 for each county.
There’s also more than $200 million to restore and preserve existing state parks.
There isn’t any specific money in the bond for the Oroville Dam, since most of those repairs will be paid for by water agencies and the federal government. But the state could use some of the bond’s $300 million for flood protection if the feds don’t cover the full cost – or to improve levees downstream from the dam.
Here's a breakdown of how the money is proposed to be spent:
- Water: $1.2 billion for clean drinking water, drought preparedness, flood protection and repair, groundwater sustainability and water recycling projects.
- Climate and Environment: $1.5 billion for climate preparedness, habitat resiliency, wildlife conservation, river, creek and waterway improvement, and ocean, bay and coastal protection programs.
- Parks: $1.3 billion for parks in disadvantaged "park-poor" neighborhoods; restoration and preservation of state parks; and for city and county regional parks.
The bond still requires supermajority approval in the Assembly and Senate this week – plus the governor’s signature – before it can move to the ballot.
-- Ben Adler, Capital Public Radio
Housing, Parks, Immigration Headline Legislature's Final Week
Original story: California lawmakers have just one week of work left in Sacramento and roughly 600 bills to plow through before they adjourn for the year Friday night.
Major pieces of legislation include:
- A package of bills that seek to address California’s high cost of living, including a $4 billion housing bond and a fee on real estate transaction documents that’s expected to raise several hundred million dollars a year for affordable housing projects.
- A $4 billion parks and water bond.
- The question of whether California should declare itself a ‘sanctuary state’ by banning state and local law enforcement agencies from fully cooperating with federal immigration authorities.
- Shifting the start of the school day for 6th-through-12th graders back from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.
- Moving California’s presidential primary elections up from June to March.