State Legislation Roundup

California State Capitol, Sacramento.

RL Miller’s top three recommended bills of this session of the legislature

[RL Miller leads Climate Hawks Vote and is the former chair of the California Democratic Party’s Environmental Caucus]

SB260The Climate Corporate Accountability Act, requires public and private US-based corporations who do business in California and which have over one billion dollars in annual revenue to report their greenhouse gas emissions from their direct activities, the activities of their supply chain, and other major emission sources by 2025. The reporting required by this bill is fully aligned with the accepted international standard: the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. [more info]

SB953Oil and gas leases: state waters: State Lands Commission would require the commission to terminate all remaining oil and gas leases under its jurisdiction in tidelands and submerged lands within state waters by December 31, 2023.

SB1173Public retirement systems: fossil fuels: divestment requires California’s public employee pension funds (CalPERS and CalSTRS) to divest $9.9B from the Carbon Underground 200—the largest publicly traded fossil fuel firms. They must divest by July 2027 and it prohibits new investments.

Noteworthy health and education bills now in the legislature

SB1014Enhanced Clinically Integrated Program for Federally Qualified Health Centers. Commit to Community Care Plan: Increases funding for community clinics. Would direct $400 million plus additional federal funds to address healthcare workforce challenges at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) to build the care infrastructure. The funding can be used to increase wages to retain workers or train new healthcare workers with oversight and accountability.

AB2266Community colleges: California College Promise: fee waiver eligibility. This bill would remove, for the purpose of eligibility for the fee waiver, the qualification that students be first-time students and the exclusion of students who have previously earned a degree or certificate from a postsecondary educational institution.

AB2371Public postsecondary education: California State University: tuition. This bill enables community college students who complete the California College Promise Program and Associate Degree for Transfer to be eligible to receive two years of a tuition-free education at the California State University system (CSU).

AB2018Personal Income Tax Law: refundable credit: student loan debt. This would provide a tax credit for taxpayers with a degree from a university headquartered in the state who have worked in public service for at least 5 years, and who have at least $5,000 in federal student loan debt.

Bills to address the housing crisis

AB2053The Social Housing Act. This bill will create and protect mixed-income homes that are federally built, sustainable, collectively owned, affordable, and financially self-sustaining for all income levels.

SB914The HELP Act. This bill will require California’s state and local homelessness plans to address how they will help domestic violence survivors and unaccompanied women experiencing homelessness. This bill would require the California Interagency Council on Homelessness to set and measure progress toward goals to prevent and end homelessness among domestic violence survivors and their children, and among unaccompanied women in California.

AB1816Reentry housing and workforce development. This bill, co-sponsored by Assemblymember Isaac Bryan, would create the Reentry Housing and Workforce Development Program to fund long-term rental assistance in permanent housing, incentives to landlords, and innovative or evidence-based services to assist formerly incarcerated individuals who participate to access permanent supportive housing.

AB2050— Reforms the Ellis Act to end the speculator eviction loophole

Anastasia Foster, of the Santa Monica Rent Control Board, sees this reform as part of an effort to “preserve naturally-occurring affordable housing” and “curb speculative activity on buildings occupied by humans.”

Once there was a more or less well-intentioned law that was meant to protect aging “mom and pop” landlords who needed to exit the rental market because they could no longer take care of their properties. It was called the Ellis Act. But then the Courts stepped in and expanded the reach of the Ellis act. Soon speculators swooped in to buy buildings and quickly “go out of the rental business.” What followed was eviction notices and loss of affordable housing.

According to the Coalition for Economic Survival: “Studies show that the vast majority of Ellis Act evictions transpire within the first five years of building purchases, indicating that these property owners had no intention of being in the rental business in the first place. In fact, there has been a trend of ‘Serial Evictors’ who evict tenants from multiple buildings to convert the units to other uses and then acquire new rental properties for the same purpose.”

That’s why Assembly Member Alex Lee (D-San Jose) has introduced AB2050, which seeks to end speculator abuse of the Ellis Act by imposing a five-year holding period before the Ellis Act can be used to evict tenants.

California reproductive freedom progress report
by Cynthia Hart

In last month’s newsletter I wrote about the recommendations of the California Future of Abortion Council (FAB). Now I am pleased to report that the California Legislative Women’s Caucus is hard at work on a basket of bills to keep the Blue Beacon shining.

First, I have good news! The first bill on the list has already been signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. SB245, which eliminates cost sharing in abortion services, was authored by State Senator Lena A. Gonzalez and co-authored by our own State Senator Sydney Kamlager. Copayments, coinsurance, deductibles and other cost-sharing arrangements will no longer be a barrier to access after January 1, 2023.

Currently in Committee, we have the following protective measures that must pass the State Assembly by May 27 of this year in order to remain active:

AB1666—Reproductive Privacy Act. After Texas enacted its six-week abortion ban and empowered vigilantes to use the civil courts to enforce it, more than a dozen other states began considering similar laws. AB1666, authored by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, makes clear that such civil actions are contrary to the public policy of our State and that California courts cannot be used to enforce this unjust law. This will provide civil protections to clinicians that provide abortions to patients from states with hostile laws, as well as those who assist people from out of state to access abortion services in California.

AB2223—Reproductive Health. Nationwide, as many as one in five known pregnancies end in miscarriage, and in California as many as 2,365 pregnancies end in stillbirth—often with no known cause. Even in Blue California, people who experience pregnancy loss can be prosecuted for it. Assemblymember Buffy Wicks has authored AB2223 to protect people from prosecutions and criminalization of abortion or pregnancy loss. Assemblymember Wicks writes, “Every Californian should have the right to feel secure that they can seek medical assistance during pregnancy without fear of civil or criminal liability.”

AB2091—Reproductive Health and Privacy. Assemblymember Mia Bonta has authored AB2091 to enhance patient privacy and shielding of medical records for people who have sought or obtained abortions. Assemblymember Bonta writes, “California must protect the confidentiality of medical records related to abortion to protect abortion providers and others who assist in providing abortion care from frivolous civil lawsuits and accompanying costs aimed at harassing providers, diverting resources, and shutting down clinics.” By the way, if this good bill passes, it will be up to the Insurance Commissioner to enforce its provisions against insurance companies. Just one more reason that it really does matter who we elect as Insurance Commissioner.

SB1142—Abortion Practical Support. If the Supreme Court rules as expected, over a million women from red states may find California their only hope. These refugees will need practical support. State Senators Anna Caballero and Nancy Skinner have authored SB1142, that would establish a web page for centralized information on services and support for those seeking abortion care, and a fund that would enable private and public sources to support the work of abortion providers and other community-based organizations that secure practical support and other needs for patients and providers.

AB2134—Reproductive health care. As you will recall, the Supreme Court ruled that even under the Affordable Care Act corporations who provide health coverage to employees may exclude benefits for abortion and contraception if those medical services violate the corporation’s religion (Corporations are people with souls, I guess). Assemblymembers Akilah Weber and Cristina Garcia have authored AB2134 in an effort to establish gap coverage for Californians who lack abortion and contraception benefits.

Other bills to promote reproductive freedom in California are expected.

AB1819—Stop foreign influence in elections

by Cynthia Hart

Assemblymember Alex Lee has introduced AB1819 to prohibit foreign-influenced corporations from contributing to candidates, parties, or committees, or from engaging in their own direct election spending. You may be wondering—how is that even a thing? Doesn’t existing federal law and our State’s Political Reform Act of 1974 take care of that?

Kind of, but there’s a loophole. The current law applies to foreign-incorporated corporations. A foreign investor (like, for example, a foreign government-owned oil wealth fund) may own a significant interest in a corporation that is organized under U.S. laws and has the U.S. as its principal place of business. Such a foreign-influenced corporation can spend millions to influence our elections. In the last election, we saw how corporations can write their own self-serving legislation and get it passed through the initiative process.

AB1819 will close the loophole for California elections. It is supported by Money Out Voters In, Ground Game LA, and other good government groups.