Updated Aug. 31, 1:09 a.m.
California's 2017-18 legislative session has come to an end. Lawmakers debated hundreds of bills this week, sending measures on wildfire liability, net neutrality, police transparency and more to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. Brown has until Sept. 30 to veto the bills or sign them into law. Look back through our end-of-session live blog to see what transpired this week:
Gov. Brown Makes Appearance As Legislative Session Wraps Up
Gov. Jerry Brown stopped by the Senate and Assembly as the 2017-18 legislative session — his last in 16 years as governor — wrapped up Friday night.
Lawmakers Approve Releasing Police Video 45 Days After An Officer Shooting
California lawmakers have agreed to crack open the files when a police shooting occurs.
Two measures passed by the Legislature late Friday night would require the release of body camera footage and records related to shootings and deadly use-of-force incidents.
Learn more about AB 748 and SB 1421 here.
What The Heck Is In California’s Wildfire Liability Rule That Lawmakers Just Passed?
California lawmakers have voted to shift billions of dollars of wildfire-recovery costs from electric utility shareholders to ratepayers.
The measure passed the Senate 29-4 and the Assembly 46-11 late Friday night in the waning hours of the 2018 legislative session. It now advances to Gov. Jerry Brown, who was involved in negotiations and is expected to sign it.
Learn more about SB 901 here.
California Will Not Expand Energy-Sharing With Surrounding States
“We will continue this important discussion next year,” Democratic Senate leader Toni Atkins said in a brief, two-sentence statement Friday evening.
She was referring to a complicated effort to overhaul how California plans its electricity use, a priority of Gov. Jerry Brown, which has split environmental groups.
Assembly Bill 813 would have set California on a path to join its electric-grid planning with other western states. This potentially could increase the amount of renewable energy California produces, while alleviating a problematic spike and drop-off of solar energy as the sun rises and sets, known as the “duck curve.”
Opponents worried the plan would allow states with less stringent climate policies to pump more coal electricity into California, while the Trump administration would have more authority over the state’s energy policies.
Should lawmakers take up and pass a regional grid bill next year, the next governor, not Brown, will decide its fate.
“Without a regional grid, renewable energy cannot expand in an integrated and efficient manner, nor can California continue its climate leadership,” Brown said in a statement after Atkins’ announcement.
Gov. Jerry Brown will decide whether California should implement its own version of net neutrality, defying the Trump administration.
The state Senate gave the measure final approval on Friday to a measure that would ban Internet service providers from prioritizing or interfering with one web company’s content to favor a competitor. The state Attorney General would have power to investigate claims of abuse.
The Federal Communications Commission repealed similar, Obama-era rules earlier this year. If Brown signs the measure, lawsuits are likely.
Author Pulls Bill Banning Gay Conversion Therapy Despite Bipartisan Support
A ban on gay conversion therapy in California will not make it to the governor’s desk this year.
Assemblymember Evan Low authored the measure and says he’s pulling the bill to make it more inclusive despite bipartisan support.
Low, who is openly gay, said he had mixed emotions about not seeing the bill put up for a vote. He said it’s a personal issue for him, as he considered conversion therapy as a child.
“I didn’t understand what it [being gay] was and I wanted to be like everybody else,” Low said. “I would go through the bookstore at Barnes & Noble and try to figure out what this means. Could I be changed? Could I be different?”
Low said gay conversion therapy in itself “is antithetical to my very existence.” He added, “we should be celebrated and be confident in who we are.”
Conversion therapy has been illegal in California for minors since 2012. Low’s bill would have done the same for adults. The state would be the first in the nation to qualify the therapy as a fraudulent and illegal practice.
Two Clean Drinking Water Bills Won't Come Up For A Vote
Two bills aimed at providing safe, clean drinking water in California did not go to a vote at the Capitol Friday.
The first would implement a voluntary tax on residents to make drinking water safe, and the other would increase taxes on dairies and fertilizer manufacturers.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a statement that the bills had a “piecemeal funding approach” that wouldn't work to protect residents from contaminated water.
More than 100 organizations supported the water tax bill, including a number of environmental and agricultural groups. The bills were opposed by the Association of California Water Agencies, which said a tax would make water less affordable for residents.
California Assembly Votes To Delay School Start Times
School would start later in California, under a bill passed by the Assembly.
The measure would require publicly funded middle and high schools begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m..
Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics and others shows current start times leave adolescents sleep-deprived.
Support and opposition did not fall neatly along party lines. Republican Assemblyman Jay Obernolte argued the science is clear.
“This is the single most cost-effective thing we can do to improve graduation rates,” he said.
About 80 percent of California schools begin classes earlier than 8:30 a.m., according to research from the U.S. Department of Education and a legislative analysis of the measure.
Opponents argued school start times should be decided at the local level by individual districts. Democratic Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva said such a major shift for so many parents, teachers and administrators would be impractical.
“I’ve often seen kids dropped off at schools at 7 a.m. or earlier, and they’re sitting on the steps in front of schools waiting for school to start,” Quirk-Silva said.
Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber said families should adjust.
“We spend too much time talking about old people and their needs,” Weber said. “And very seldom do we talk about young people and what is going to really help our kids get from the bottom to at least the middle if not the top.”
The measure exempts zero-periods. It now heads to the Senate for a final vote.
Bills To Watch On Friday
Lawmakers are going to have a busy final day of the California legislative session. Here are a few of the major bills we're watching today. Some measures can't come up for a vote until a certain time because of a rule requiring that bills be public and not amended for 72 hours before lawmakers vote for them. We've noted those cases.
Lawmakers have to do something to get through the endless hours of debate during this final week of legislative session. So they play a game called "legislative bingo" where they try to sneak in some catchy phrases into their floor speeches.
In 2012 CapRadio's Ben Adler put together this montage of lawmakers zipping off one-liners.
Ban On Forced Nondisparagement Agreements Clears Key Hurdle
The California Assembly has narrowly approved one of the most prominent bills to arise from the Me Too and “We Said Enough” movements at the state Capitol.
SB 1300 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) passed 41-33, the bare minimum needed.
The measure would prohibit employers from forcing new employees or those seeking raises to sign nondisclosure agreements or waive their right to file legal claims.
Asm. Eloise Reyes (D-San Bernardino) urged her colleagues to “put an end to the tactics that enable harassers.”
“We will never have workplaces free from harassment when we give harassers a permission slip to behave badly,” she said.
No Assembly member spoke against the bill. But it has drawn fierce opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce, which argues the measure would increase lawsuits against businesses.
The bill now returns to the Senate for final approval.
Bill To Prevent Children Under 12 From Being Prosecuted Passes Assembly
Children under age 12 would no longer be prosecuted for crimes, other than murder and forcible sexual assault, under a bill that eked through the California Assembly on Thursday.
Asm. Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles) argued that elementary-aged children don’t have the brain capacity to make well-thought-out decisions, so they shouldn’t be forced into the juvenile court system.
“This bill will not simply let all kids go without repercussions for committing crimes,” she said. “Instead, services needed will be provided to help the child — not to simply punish them.”
But Republican Assemblyman Tom Lackey insisted the bill goes “way too far.”
He said it requires law enforcement to turn juveniles under 12 over to their parents or guardians.
“No matter how much harm the child has caused, no matter how many victims were involved, and no matter how much the juvenile needs rehabilitation services,” he said.
The bill passed the Assembly with an initial vote count of 42 to 28. It now returns to the Senate for final approval before heading to the governor.
Also on Thursday: the Legislature sent the governor a bill that would prohibit 14- and 15-year-old criminal defendants from being tried as adults and sent to adult prison. That measure passed the Senate by an initial vote of 22 to 15 after winning Assembly approval a day earlier.
And the Senate gave final approval to a bill that seeks to rewrite California’s “felony murder” law so that an accomplice to a crime is not necessarily subject to the same sentence as the actual killer.
Assembly Passes Net Neutrality Measure
A bill to preserve net neutrality in California came up for debate in the Assembly on Thursday. CapRadio’s Ben Bradford recapped SB 822’s path to a vote in this Twitter thread:
The bill was approved Friday and goes on to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.
Bill To Push Back Last Call Heads To Gov. Brown
Bars in Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, and a few other cities could remain open until 4 a.m. under a bill headed to the governor’s desk.
The bill, passed by the Legislature on Thursday, would allow nine cities to extend drinking hours starting in 2021 and ending after 2025. Lawmakers describe the measure as a “pilot program.”
Cities would have to agree to the extended hours before they would take effect. Bars wanting to extend hours would have to obtain an additional license.
Proponents describe the bill as helping the state draw visitors.
“California destination cities are at a disadvantage when competing with cities both nationally and internationally for tourism, conventions, and conferences,” said Democratic Asm. Wendy Carrillo.
Brown has until September 30 to sign the bill into law.
Health Plans, Pharmacy Middlemen Push Back Against California Drug Pricing Bill
A bill that aims to regulate drug price negotiations between pharmacies and middlemen working on behalf of health plans in California is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown after a contentious battle and some late-session drama.
Asm. Jim Wood’s AB 315 would more heavily regulate pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs. These private companies strike deals for cheaper drugs on behalf of health plans.
In theory, PBMs pass the cost-savings on to patients. But consumer advocates say they’re really just holding onto the profits.
Wood’s bill could require PBMs to disclose information about those negotiations to the health plans they work with and to the Department of Managed Health Care. He floated it in session last year but ultimately held it so he could work out the details with Brown’s administration.
Now it’s headed to the governor, but health plans are strongly opposed. Mary Ellen Grant, spokesperson for the California Association of Health Plans, said it puts an unnecessary burden on insurance companies, who would have to deliver information about the PBMs they work with to the state under the bill.
Police Use Of Force Bill Done For Year, ‘Felony Murder’ Bill Ekes Forward
Two controversial public safety bills advanced and one stalled for the year on a busy — and late — Wednesday night of action in the California Legislature.
Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) announced that she is holding a measure that seeks to change the rules governing when police officers can use deadly force. The bill, AB 931 by Asm. Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), emerged this spring after the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark by Sacramento police.
But other public safety measures moved forward Wednesday night.
SB 1437 by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), which seeks to rewrite California’s “felony murder” law, eked through the Assembly with the bare minimum 41 votes. The Assembly also approved SB 1391 by Sens. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), which would prohibit 14- and 15-year-old criminal defendants from being tried as adults and sent to adult prison.
Both measures return to the Senate for a final vote.
In other notable legislative action Wednesday, the Legislature sent Gov. Jerry Brown bills that seek to block the Trump administration’s plans to expand oil drilling off the California coast, and extend the deadline to file a harassment or discrimination complaint with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing from one year after an incident occured to three.
Legislature Sends Governor Bill To Raise Long Gun Purchase Age From 18 To 21
The California Senate has given final approval to a measure that would increase the minimum age required to purchase long guns from 18 to 21.
That’s the same age required under federal law for handgun purchases.
The 26-to-12 vote unsurprisingly broke down along party lines.
“What is magic about 21?” argued Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama). “All of a sudden, you’re not a danger anymore.”
“The two most deadly recent school tragedies have been perpetrated by people under 21 with long guns,” countered Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), the bill’s author.
The measure passed the Assembly on Tuesday and now moves to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has signed some gun control bills in recent years and vetoed others.
Bail Industry Seeks To Overturn Law Putting It Out Of Business
One day after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill to end cash bail in California, opponents announced they’re filing a referendum in hopes of voters overturning the law.
It’s always harder — and more expensive — to qualify a referendum for a statewide ballot than an initiative, because initiative proponents have 150 days to gather voter signatures, while referendum backers have just 90.
But California Bail Agents Association lobbyist David Quintana says the industry’s 7,000 employees set to lose their jobs under the new law — and their families and friends — will walk the streets to get signatures.
“There’s an old saying in politics,” Quintana says. “You don’t corner a dog. You leave the dog an exit somewhere, right? Because when you corner a dog, you don’t know what he’s gonna do and he can fight back and he can hurt. And this is what happened in this case.”
If the referendum qualifies for the November 2020 ballot, the bail law set to take effect next fall would be delayed until voters have their say.
Quintana wouldn’t say if the industry is also considering a lawsuit to block the measure but did add that “every weapon in the arsenal will be fired.”
— Ben Adler
Plan For 100 Percent Renewable Energy By 2045 Heads To Governor
A bill designed to wean California off of greenhouse gas emitting electric power will head to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.
The measure, SB 100, raises the amount of renewable energy the state is required to use in 2030, up to 60 percent from the current target of 50 percent. It also tells energy regulators to pursue 100 percent clean energy by 2045, including a mix of renewables, hydroelectric power, and gas plants that capture the carbon.
Gov. Jerry Brown has previously declined to support the bill, calling the state’s current energy goals “daunting.” It’s not clear if he will sign it.
The measure received enough votes Wednesday afternoon to pass, but the Senate delayed formally approving the measure until senators who were not in the room for the vote had a chance to add their name to the official tally.
State Assembly Approves More Funding For DMV To Cut Wait Times
Lawmakers are offering the Department of Motor Vehicles more money to relieve long customer wait times under a bill passed by the California Assembly on Wednesday.
The DMV has already received $16 million in emergency funding to hire more employees. The agency requested an additional $26 million from lawmakers but was denied.
Instead, lawmakers put the dollar amount in the hands of Gov. Jerry Brown's administration, subject to approval by a legislative committee.
Republican Asm. Catharine Baker argued the agency needs to be audited. A proposal to do just that was rejected earlier this month.
“So the solution we have is not to work together,” Baker said. “It’s to throw money at it. Unlimited amount of money. Let’s just throw money at it. Let’s not even try to fix it.”
While standing inside the Sacramento field office Thursday, DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said her agency shouldn’t be faulted for long wait times.
“We probably underestimated the number of resources that we needed,” Shiomoto said. “So that’s not – I wouldn’t characterize that as a mistake. It was just we were seeing more customers than we anticipated all at once.”
The bill for more funding will go back to the Senate for a final vote.
Should California Universities Stock Abortion Pills?
Student health centers at California universities would offer abortion medication, under a measure that is one vote away from Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.
The bill passed by the Assembly Wednesday would require UC and CSU schools to offer pills that terminate pregnancies. Each school would receive about $200,000 in private funding, pledged by women’s health groups to fund the program.
Democratic Sen. Connie Leyva first introduced the measure last year, in response to UC Berkeley declining to offer the medication despite student petitions. The measure sat for the better part of a year in committee amid concerns from university administrators about funding and implementing the program.
The measure heads to the Senate for a final vote.
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