Jerry Brown has cleared his desk for the final time as governor of California.
“16 years — and nearly 20,000 bills — later, the desk is clear. #Eureka,” Brown tweeted at 8:19 p.m. Sunday after acting on the last of more than 1,200 bills passed by the Legislature in 2018.
And he saved some sweeping pieces of legislation until the end, including a net neutrality bill that immediately drew a lawsuit from the Trump administration, bills on police transparency and juvenile justice, and a flurry of measures spurred by the Me Too movement.
He even snuck a farewell into his final signing message — and, in true Jerry Brown fashion, a quote from Exodus, to boot.
Here’s a look at some of the major bills the governor acted on Sunday.
'Strongest Net Neutrality Law In The Nation' Draws Immediate Lawsuit
The backers of the net neutrality law Brown approved on Sunday call it the strongest in the nation. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions believes a federal judge will call it unconstitutional.
The ink was hardly dry on Brown’s signature on SB 822 by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) when the Trump administration sued California to overturn the law.
“Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce—the federal government does,” Sessions said in a statement after filing the lawsuit. “Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy.”
The measure generally takes the Obama administration’s net neutrality regulations that were reversed by the Trump administration and makes them state law, although industry groups argued the bill goes further than the Obama-era regulations.
In fact, opponents tried to weaken the measure in the Legislature — and for a time, it looked like they would succeed. But backers were able to restore the bill and advance it to Brown’s desk.
The governor signed it without comment.
For #MeToo Bills, A Mix Of Signings And Vetoes
Brown weighed several measures prompted by the Me Too and We Said Enough movements at the state Capitol, many of which drew significant opposition from business groups.
His actions were mixed.
Brown signed SB 820 by Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino), which bans nondisclosure agreements in sexual harassment, assault and discrimination cases.
He also approved SB 1300 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), which prohibits employers from forcing new employees or those seeking raises to sign non-disparagement agreements or waive their right to file legal claims. Those rights, however, could still be waived as part of a settlement — which often happens in exchange for a severance package.
But the governor vetoed AB 1870 by Asm. Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-Grand Terrace), which would have extended the deadline to file a harassment or discrimination complaint with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing from one year after an incident occurred to three. In his veto message, Brown wrote the current filing deadline “ensures that unwelcome behavior is promptly reported and halted.”
He also rejected AB 3080 by Asm. Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego), which would have banned employers from requiring workers to participate in private arbitration to settle disputes such as sexual harassment claims, rather than going to court. In his veto message, Brown wrote that the bill “plainly violates federal law.” The bill was the only measure that reached the governor’s desk this year labeled a “job killer” by the California Chamber of Commerce.
Police Transparency Bills Signed Into Law
Six months after the Sacramento police shooting of Stephon Clark, Brown signed a pair of bills that seek to bring new transparency to law enforcement agencies by requiring the release of body camera footage and investigation records.
AB 748 by Asm. Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) requires that body camera footage be released within 45 days of a police shooting, or when an officer’s use of force causes death or great bodily harm.
SB 1421 by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) allows public access to police records in use-of-force cases, as well as sustained investigations into on-the-job dishonesty or sexual assault.
Both faced strong opposition from law enforcement unions. But SB 1421 was supported by the California Police Chiefs Association.
Brown Backs Juvenile Justice System, Felony Murder Bills
Several criminal justice bills that eked through the Legislature despite fierce opposition from Republicans and law enforcement groups found favor with the governor.
Brown signed SB 1391 by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), which prohibits 14- and 15-year-old criminal defendants from being tried as adults. The measure drew impassioned pleas for a veto from law enforcement groups and some crime victims.
In a lengthy signing statement on what he called a “difficult bill,” Brown wrote that he “carefully listened to that opposition and it has weighed on me.” But he said there is a “fundamental principle at stake here: whether we want a society which at least attempts to reform the youngest offenders before consigning them to adult prisons where their likelihood of becoming a lifelong criminal is so much higher.”
The governor also approved SB 439 by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), which ends the prosecution of children under age 12 who commit crimes other than murder and forcible sexual assault.
And Brown signed a rewrite of California’s felony murder law. Under SB 1437 by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), an accomplice to a crime will no longer necessarily be subject to the same sentence as the actual killer.
In Other News …
Brown rejected a bill that would have required University of California and California State University campuses to make medication abortion services available.
In his veto message of Leyva’s SB 320, Brown wrote that “because the services provided by this bill are widely available off-campus, this bill is not necessary.”
And the governor signed Jackson’s SB 826, which requires California-based publicly held corporations to include women on their boards of directors.
Brown acknowledged the bill has “potential flaws” that could lead to a court overturning it.
But in his signing statement, issued just days after Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing gripped the nation, the governor wrote that “recent events in Washington, D.C.--and beyond--make it crystal clear that many are not getting the message.”
Since courts have ruled that corporations are people, Brown wrote, “it’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America.”
In case anyone missed his point, Brown CC’d his signing message to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly characterized the purpose of SB 1300. It prohibits employers from forcing new employees or those seeking raises to sign non-disparagement agreements or waive their right to file legal claims.
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