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Final Day Capitol Roundup: Housing, 'Sanctuary State', Campaign Finance Reform

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) speaks in favor of a $4 billion parks and water bond Friday night, September 15, 2017, at the state Capitol in Sacramento.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California lawmakers are continuing their push through hundreds of bills before the legislative session ends. 

Here are some of the highlights from Friday's final session, which you'll find below our late night updates:

  • After Weeks In Limbo, Housing Deal Is Finally Done
  • "Sanctuary State" Bill Passes California Assembly
  • Bill To Shed Light On Dark Money Advances To Governor
  • Lawmakers Divvy-Up Cap-And-Trade Money

 Read on for more...

Late-night rapid-fire updates...

  • 2:50am: Th-th-th-th-that's all, folks...The Legislature stands in recess and will reconvene in January.
  • 2:10am: The Senate has now sent the parks and water bond to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has promised to sign it. The measure will appear on the June 2018 ballot.
  • 1:50am: After several hours of action in fits and starts, separated by lengthy delays, the Senate has sent the “Sanctuary State” bill to Gov. Jerry Brown by a 27-11 vote.
  • Sat., 1:32am: California Governor Jerry Brown will decide whether to move the California primary to March, after the Legislature gave final approval to that measure early Saturday morning.

    The bill is a response to last year’s June primary, when—for the six time in seven presidential elections—the major party nominees were decided before California voters went to the polls. But, moving the primary has been tried before. Read more here.

  • 11:30pm: The Assembly passed the parks and water bond, SB 5, 54-19. The nearly two-hour delay was due not to any policy disagreements with the bill but rather internal politics between the Senate and Assembly.
  • 9:45pm: The $4 billion parks and water bond for the June 2018 ballot is 10 votes short of the two-thirds supermajority needed for passage. It's on call (which means the vote is paused while other bills are taken up), leading 44-17, with 17 Assembly members not voting.
  • 9:30pm: Trolling Trump: Democrats have pushed through a bill that would require presidential candidates to release their tax returns for their names to appear on a California presidential primary ballot. The Senate just gave the measure final approval after the Assembly passed it Thursday.
  • 9:25pm: The author of a bill that would make California the first state in the country to open centers where intravenous drug users could shoot up without fear of being arrested has shelved her measure for the year. Asm. Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) says she'll keep working on the issue next year. The measure failed on the Senate floor earlier this week.
  • 9:15pm: The Assembly has finished up the Legislature's housing work, churning through the seven remaining bills in the package of 15 agreed to by Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders. What bills comprise the housing deal? We're glad you asked...

UPDATE 7:59 p.m.: Lawmakers Divvy Up Cap-And-Trade Money

California lawmakers have agreed on how to divvy up $1.5 billion of funding generated by the state’s cap-and-trade program.

Measures passed Friday direct most of that money to cutting pollution from the transportation sector, which comprises about 40 percent of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

“California simply cannot meet our long-term climate targets without reducing emissions from transportation,” said Democratic Senate leader Kevin de León.

Under the measures, the state will spend $895 million on clean vehicle programs, especially replacing diesel engines in buses, agricultural equipment, and at ports.

Lawmakers also approved more than $150 million for cleaner farming—including reducing methane from cows. Another $225 million goes to fighting wildfires.

But discussion largely focused on one, recently-added provision, which drew criticism from Republicans and some Democrats.

“We shouldn’t be holding our environmental projects hostage to a fight with one progressive employer,” said Democratic Sen. Steve Glazer.

That employer is Tesla, which the National Labor Relations Board has accused of disrupting unionization efforts by its workers. Under the measures, Tesla and other clean vehicle manufacturers must receive state approval of their treatment of workers, if their vehicles are to remain eligible for state rebates.

Here’s a breakdown of the main funding categories:

  • Diesel engines and the transportation sector: $895 million
  • Local air quality programs: $27 million
  • Agriculture programs, including methane reduction: $165 million
  • Preventing and responding to forest fires: $225 million
  • Recycling and greening: $101 million
  • Climate change preparation: $55 million

Another $32 million helps backfill the revenue lost from removing a fire-fighting tax on rural communities—part of a deal with Republican lawmakers to pass an extension of the cap-and-trade program.

The bill allocates the portion of cap-and-trade that lawmakers have discretion over. The program distributes 60 percent of its revenue automatically to clean energy programs and the state’s high-speed rail project.

Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign the measures.

-- Ben Bradford, Capital Public Radio

UPDATE 7:25 p.m.: After Weeks In Limbo, Housing Deal Is Finally Done

Nearly two months after Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders promised a package of bills to address California’s exorbitant housing costs, and more than two weeks since the housing deal largely came together, the bills are finally heading to the governor’s desk.

“For millions of people it is next to impossible to buy a house or even find an apartment they can afford,” Brown said in a statement Friday evening. “These 15 bills will spur the building of more housing and increase the number of Californians who can actually afford to buy or rent.”

The package includes a $4 billion housing bond for the November 2018 ballot, several bills that seek to streamline the approvals process, and measures that would force cities and counties to comply with state housing production mandates.

But the lynchpin of the deal – the bill that held up votes on the rest of the measures for weeks – is SB 2 by Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), which would levy a $75 document fee on real estate transactions, excluding home sales.

“I’m almost speechless today,” Atkins said after the bills passed. “This has been a labor of love for more than seven years.”

(What are the 15 bills in the housing package? We walk you through them one-by-one)

“This is not a panacea,” Atkins added. “It doesn’t answer every solution. But my gosh, it goes a long way.”

It almost didn’t happen.

Late Thursday night, the Assembly brought SB 2 up for a vote after a lengthy debate. Bills to create or raise taxes and fees require two-thirds supermajorities. That meant every Assembly Democrat would need to vote for it, assuming Republicans opposed it.

One Republican did vote yes: Asm. Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego), citing the homeless crisis facing his city. That gave Democrats one free pass, and they gave it to Asm. Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), perhaps their most vulnerable caucus member in the 2018 election.

Nearly every other Democrat went up on the bill fairly quickly, including two key swing votes who lost their Assembly seats in the 2014 midterms before regaining them last year.

But there were two holdouts: Asm. Marc Levine (D-Marin County) and Asm. Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks), both of whom represent safe Democratic seats.

And for an entire hour, they didn’t budge.

But after meeting with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount), they finally cast their Aye votes, and the measure passed – with no room to spare.

“There were certain aspects of SB 2 that Mr. Levine and Mr. Nazarian had questions about, and we chatted through them,” Rendon told reporters after the vote. Asked if either holdout got anything for their votes, Rendon replied: “Absolutely not.”

The final piece of the housing package to win the governor’s blessing was an inclusionary housing bill. That’s when a city or county requires a developer to build a set percentage of affordable housing units as part of a larger project.

Brown vetoed inclusionary housing measures both as governor and mayor of Oakland. But after lengthy negotiations will the bill’s backers, Brown’s office confirmed his support Friday evening.

-- Ben Adler, Capital Public Radio

UPDATE 6:22 p.m.: It's do-or-die day for hundreds of bills in the California Legislature. So far, there's been more do-ing than dy-ing. Our Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler joined CapRadio's Julia Mitric with an update at 5:45pm:

Listen: Ben Adler Joins Julia Mitric With An Update From The Capitol:


UPDATE 4:36 p.m.: "Sanctuary State" Bill Passes California Assembly
California lawmakers have voted to make the Golden State a “sanctuary state.” The Assembly passed the closely-watched bill Friday to restrict state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.
Asm. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) urged his colleagues to state “firmly and loudly that California is a sanctuary state.”
“I stand here as a proud supporter of SB 54, because our immigrant brothers and sisters make our social fabric stronger,” he said.
But Asm. Jordan Cunningham (R-Templeton) said the measure would protect criminals at the expense of law-abiding citizens.
“It puts our state sheriffs – who are on the front lines of keeping us safe and protecting us – in the middle of a political brawl between the federal government and our state government,” Cunningham said. “It’s not right.”
The measure does allow law enforcement communication with federal authorities in specific circumstances – such as inter-agency task forces and cases involving most violent felonies.
The bill now returns to the state Senate for a final vote. Gov. Jerry Brown has promised to sign it once it reaches his desk.

In related news, a federal judge in Chicago ruled Friday that the Trump administration does not have the right to withhold public-safety grants from sanctuary cities.

 -- Ben Adler, Capital Public Radio


UPDATE 3:37 p.m: Bill To Shed Light On Dark Money Advances To Governor

A bill that would shed more light on who’s funding California ballot measure ads is one step from becoming law.

The Disclose Act, or AB 249, was approved by the State Assembly on Friday. Democratic Assemblyman Marc Levine said it’s a victory for voters.

“Dark money is a poison to an informed democracy," Levine told his colleagues. "Our voters deserve to know who’s spending money both for and against a ballot proposition.”

The bill would require ballot measure ads to clearly and prominently list their three largest funders. An amendment, however, provides some exemptions for business and labor groups.

For that reason, several Republicans opposed the bill, including Assemblyman Matthew Harper.

“While the intentions of this bill are good, it creates a massive loophole and therefore an unfair playing field when you’re talking about membership organizations which include labor organizations," Harper said.

The bill now goes to the Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.

 -- Chris Nichols, Capital Public Radio

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