Even though California lawmakers passed the state’s budget last week, they’re not done yet. On Monday, they approved another 12 bills that would implement the spending plan, with more to come before the end of the month — and some of their provisions are doozies.
They’re called “trailer bills” because they trail the state budget. And here’s a sampling of their more eyebrow-raising proposals:
The Assembly approved a 3% pay raise for members of the state’s influential prison guards union, which was blasted by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s office for having “no evident justification.” That measure still awaits Senate action.
And both chambers voted to let the state pay the next president of the California Public Utilities Commission more than $250,000. That’s nearly twice the salary of the current president, who was appointed in 2014 to lead the powerful agency that regulates electric utilities like PG&E and telecom giants like AT&T. And it’s nearly $100,000 more than the salary of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s most recent appointment to the CPUC.
There are also some pretty big policy changes tucked into the trailers — for example, moving the Department of Juvenile Justice from the state’s prison system to its Health and Human Services Agency. That proposal passed the Senate and Assembly.
And one of Newsom’s priorities is now en route to his desk: an extension of paid family leave benefits from six weeks to eight.
The state currently pays to replace up to 70 percent of a worker’s wages while he or she is on leave. It’s funded through a payroll tax deducted from employee paychecks.
Many Republicans opposed the paid family leave extension when it came up for debate, arguing the payroll tax deduction could go up.
“That will result in about $60 less in the pocket of every single California worker in the next year,” said Asm. Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia). “Now, that might not be a lot of money to you or to me, but for some of our constituents, that $60 a year is a lot of money.”
The governor has argued how crucial it is for new parents to be able to bond with their babies. The same bill also funds a task force to study ways for the state to extend paid family leave up to six months.
The Assembly approved a new fee on cell phones and landlines of up to 80 cents per line per month to modernize the state’s outdated 9-1-1 system, with Democrats using their supermajority to reach the necessary two-thirds threshold for a fee increase.
Obernolte acknowledged the need to modernize California’s emergency response system. But he slammed the vote for a new fee when the state has a $21 billion surplus.
“We could easily fund this program from the general fund, instead of asking Californians to pay more,” he said.
But Asm. Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) argued the way we communicate — and pay for communication services — has changed. She says the state needs a modern, sustainable 9-1-1 system:
“We don’t always have a surplus in California,” she said. “But we will always have emergencies.”
The fee would take effect January 1 if approved by the Senate and signed by Newsom.
The Senate, meanwhile, approved a series of changes to California’s tax laws proposed by the governor, known as “tax conformity” because they align the state and federal tax codes following the overhaul passed by President Trump and Congressional Republicans in late 2017.
That measure is projected to net the state more than $1.5 billion a year — some of which would fund the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income, working Californians.
It still needs approval in the Assembly, whose members have expressed reluctance to cast votes that could be labeled tax increases.
All told, lawmakers sent the governor 12 bills on Monday. Two more passed the Assembly and one passed the Senate; those three measures await final votes in the opposite chamber.
More than a half dozen other trailer bills still need approval — including some that have yet to be made public and others that are still under negotiation between the governor and Democratic legislative leaders.