California Suspense: Lawmakers Quietly Shelve 220 Controversial or Costly Bills

Flags on the State Capitol
Flags on the California Capitol in Sacramento. Courtesy of the office of Senator Toni Atkins

California lawmakers will not create an Election Day holiday this year. Nor will they provide grants to local governments to convert public golf courses into affordable housing, or force health insurers to cover fertility treatments.

All of these proposals fell victim to the seasonal culling of bills known as the backlog. This majestic and secretive process, led by the Senate and Assembly Appropriations Committees, serves as the final budget review before any legislation that may have a significant cost to the state is sent to the entire House. room for a vote.

In fast and furious hearings on Thursday that lasted two hours, the committees went through the fate of nearly 1,000 bills, offering no explanation for their decisions and, in many cases, no formal announcement that a action has been taken.

The results had already been determined in private deliberation. The holding file, among the most opaque practices on Capitol Hill, allows legislative leaders not only to shelve overly expensive proposals, but also to more quietly dispatch controversial or politically inconvenient ones, especially in an election year. .

About 220 bills were shelved. The bills that passed – more than 700 of them – now face another looming deadline next week to move out of their original homes. If successful, they will move on to the other chamber for further examination.

Here are some of the notable metrics that aren’t moving this session forward:

Polling holiday

Five times Assemblyman Evan Low, a Democrat from Campbell, tried to create a November election holiday, closing schools and giving public employees paid time off to vote. And five times the bill has been retained on the waiting file of the Assembly, including again this year.

The 1872 Assembly Bill was slightly different from several of its predecessors in that it would have replaced Presidents’ Day with a polling holiday on even-numbered years, rather than simply adding another day off. , thus reducing its cost. But with every California voter now receiving a ballot in every election, the urgency of such a plan has diminished significantly.

A separate measure to create a holiday for June 16, Assembly Bill 1655 by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat from Los Angeles, was however introduced.

affordable housing

If a powerful interest group attacks a bill enough, it risks killing it. That’s what happened when nearly 80 local, regional and national golf groups, along with several organizations that favor local control over housing development, banded together against the 1910 Member’s Bill. of the Assembly Cristina Garcia.

The measure targeted the state’s hundreds of municipal golf courses, many of which are operating with significant financial losses, as prime locations to help the state emerge from its housing shortage. He reportedly offered grants to local governments to convert their golf courses into housing, at least a quarter of which should be affordable for low-income families. The result was not too surprising: everyone wants affordable housing, until he threatens to come to his backyard or the local golf course.

Fertility treatment

Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks’ push to demand health insurers cover fertility treatments, including expensive in vitro fertilization, has failed for the third time in four years.

Unlike 17 other states, California does not require health insurers to pay for fertility treatments. A series of in vitro and accompanying drugs can cost up to $20,000, deterring some people from having children and leaving others in exorbitant debt.

Assembly Bill 2029 by Wicks, an Oakland Democrat, faced opposition from health insurance plans and other business groups, who noted the high price tag: about 715 millions of dollars that would be presented by employers and health plan enrollees largely in the form of increased premiums.

Pay transparency

Assembly Bill 2095 by Assemblyman Ash Kalra, a Democrat from San Jose, was a first bill in the nation that would have required large corporations to report a wide range of data about their workforce. labor, including how much they are paid and what benefits they receive. The state could have used this information to provide the public with easy-to-understand metrics of how companies treat their employees and to provide certain benefits to the top performers, such as tax credits.

But the bill has faced fierce opposition from business groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce, which has put it on its list of “job killers” – all of measures against which it lobbies most aggressively each year. The Chamber argued that the data would create unfair comparisons between companies or be taken out of context.

Lawmakers have advanced another workplace transparency proposal on the “job killer” list: Senate Bill 1162 by Senator Monique Limón, a Santa Barbara Democrat, that would force companies to report some wage data, including wage scales in job postings, passed with a few amendments, including one that exempted companies with 15 or fewer employees.

Remuneration of a community college professor

Part-time community college faculty are having a mixed time in Sacramento. A $200 million pending health care fund they championed has the governor’s backing. But a bill to match the salaries of part-time community teachers with full-time teachers for similar work levels is dead in the docket.

Assembly Bill 1752 by Miguel Santiago, a Los Angeles Democrat, would have increased community college costs by approximately hundreds of millions of dollars per year. That the cost is so high speaks to the huge pay gap between part-time teachers – who are usually only paid for the hours they teach, but not for other related work like lesson planning and rating – and their full-time salaried peers.

The majority of community college professors work part-time and earn an average of $20,000 per year. Unions backed the bill while the organization representing community college executives opposed it, arguing they were already struggling to meet their staffing obligations at a time of declining college enrollment. students.

“Educators are deeply disappointed,” Claudia Briggs, spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association, said in a text message. “AB 1752 was the right thing to do for part-time students and faculty in a year when the state budget has the resources.”

Oil consumption and drilling

Assembly Bill 2816 by Assemblyman Phil Ting, a Democrat from San Francisco, was meant to boost California’s flagship program to persuade drivers to trade in their gas guzzlers for cars electrical. The measure would have ordered the California Air Resources Board to restructure rebates for purchases of zero-emission vehicles so consumers receive more money for ditching cars that used more gasoline. But the proposal failed to garner widespread support among environmental groups.

The fossil fuel industry and the unions that represent its workers also flexed their considerable muscle on Capitol Hill, helping to kill Senate Bill 953 by Sen. Dave Min, a Democrat from Costa Mesa. After a massive oil spill near the coast of Huntington Beach last fall, Min had sought to shut down the three remaining offshore platforms in state waters by forcing California to negotiate an end to their use in both coming years.

Even as Democratic leaders plan to phase out oil and gas production in the state over the next few decades, they have been reluctant to take even modest steps to limit drilling more immediately. Min’s bill was further undermined by concerns about potential financial liabilities to taxpayers if the state takes ownership of the platforms.

CalMatters is a public interest journalism company committed to explaining how the California State Capitol works and why it matters.

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