Apr 29, 2022
California Legislative Update
California Legislative Update
Legislation requiring all California schoolchildren to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting in 2023 has been shelved. SB 871 (21R) (Pan), written as the strictest student vaccination rule in the nation, would have barred in person learning for unvaccinated students and would have eliminated personal or religious exemptions. The California Department of Public Health stated it would not start the regulatory process to require schoolkids’ vaccination for coronavirus for the 2022-23 school year, pushing back the mandatory vaccination timeline. Under the policy, unvaccinated students would not be allowed on campus, and many would be transferred to independent study programs or online learning.
Sen. Richard Pan’s decision to hold SB 871 indicates that the group of aggressive vaccine proposals introduced by Democrats is looking more and more politically unpalatable. A bill requiring employers to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for their workers and independent contractors was tabled, and Pan postponed a critical hearing on his proposal to withhold state funding from law enforcement agencies that oppose public health orders for a second time. The Committee on Business and Professions passed AB 2098 (21R), a contentious proposal that reclassifies the sharing of COVID-19 “misinformation” by doctors and surgeons as unprofessional conduct resulting in disciplinary action. The author agreed to amendments that define misinformation as the spreading of false information that contradicts contemporary scientific consensus and that clarify that discipline would be warranted when dissemination is done with malicious intent and results in patient harm. Three other vaccine bills have not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
What’s Happening in Sacramento?
After a short recess, California legislators came back to Sacramento on April 18, 2022. Over the break, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration published language for four trailer bills that aim to lessen the burden of high gas prices. The governor wants to give $400 tax refunds for vehicle owners, subsidize free public transit for three months, cancel the sales tax on diesel fuel for a year, and pause the gas tax’s inflation adjustment scheduled for July 1. A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Problem Solvers Caucus is set to introduce legislation to suspend the gas tax, despite intentional inaction from legislative leadership. The proposal would suspend the gas tax for a year and stipulate that the savings be passed directly to consumers, replacing infrastructure funding with general fund money from the $68 billion budget surplus. The gas tax’s consumer price index adjustment would need to be approved by May 1 as an early action budget item.
California wants to phase out the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035. Initial documents published by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) will likely be revised; the statements have a 45-day comment period, followed by a June 9 hearing and a tentative August vote on the rules. CARB is aiming to provide manufacturers with a nine-year lead time to boost the production of zero emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Starting in 2026, the annual zero emission vehicle (ZEV) requirement would be 35% of new sales, followed by 68% in 2030, and 100% in 2035. This deadline was created in an executive order signed by Newsom in 2020. Critics have claimed that the draft requirements are extremely challenging, even for California, and warned that they may not be achievable in other states. Environmentalists and green groups have called for a more aggressive timeline.
Newsom’s state budget proposal listed overhauling cannabis taxes among his top priorities, sparking six pieces of cannabis tax reform legislation to be introduced. Over the past weeks, seven lawmakers have introduced six separate measures to alter California’s cannabis tax code, with each bill taking a different approach. Due to the range of youth and childcare focused programs that receive significant funding from cannabis tax revenues, changing the tax code is contentious. SB 1281 (21R), introduced by Sen. Steven Bradford, was amended to mandate that the California Department of Finance estimate how much revenue would have been gathered under the original cannabis tax structure, and transfer that amount from the general fund to the California Cannabis Tax Fund. This amendment is likely to appease youth groups, which have been vocal in opposing changes to the cannabis tax structure that would impact their funding.
Not all proposed legislation aims to help the cannabis industry. On the other end of the spectrum, SB 1097 (21R) (Pan) requires manufacturers to include a warning label on cannabis product packaging. The warning includes a rotating set of messages ranging from mental health risks associated with high-THC cannabis to potential dangers for pregnant mothers and children, requires weed products to use a warning system, and requires retailers to provide a brochure for first-time costumers on how to safely use cannabis products.
AB 2273, a bipartisan measure introduced by Asm. Buffy Wicks and Asm. Jordan Cunningham modeled after an existing UK law, will force TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, and other sites and apps to stop profiling kids, ban the default collection of young people’s geolocations, and prohibit manipulative designs that cause children to share excess personal information. The proposal passed the Privacy Committee on April 19 and will continue moving through the legislature. The California Chamber of Commerce and the industry lobbying group TechNet oppose the legislation and face a difficult public relations battle in amending the bill.
A proposal introduced from Sen. Josh Becker will expand California’s mandates for data brokers to allow users to opt out of sharing their personal details. California’s existing private laws already allow citizens to stop companies from selling their information, but privacy and consumer advocates argue that SB 1059 (21R) will close a loophole in the state’s privacy law and guard against the automatic collection of personal details. There is strong resistance to the bill from the California Chamber of Commerce, advertisers, and retailers. The measure moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further review and negotiation.
AB 2932, introduced by Asm. Cristina Garcia and Asm. Evan Low, proposes a four-day workweek in California for non-exempt employees. AB 2932 defines a workweek as 32 hours for private-sector companies with more than 500 employees. Hourly employees who work over 32 hours will need to be paid time-and-a-half for overtime. If passed, the bill will affect more than 2,000 businesses. The proposal is set to be heard in the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment.
What’s Happening in Los Angeles?
A poll from IGS Berkeley/LA Times released on April 11 shows a much closer mayoral race than previously reported, with developer Rick Caruso receiving 24% of likely voters and Rep. Karen Bass receiving 23%. In the last poll, Caruso stood at 8% of likely votes. City Council Member Kevin de Leon now holds 6%, down from 8% in previous polling. All other candidates polled at 2% or less. Given this data, it’s likely that Caruso and Bass would advance from the June 7 primary, although 40% of likely voters remain undecided. The poll also asked voters to pick two issues of importance to their choice of candidate – homelessness was the top issue, cited by 61% of likely voters, and crime and public safety was cited by 38% of likely voters. Concerns about crime were present not only from stereotypical demographic groups, like conservative and older voters, but also from Latinos and working-class voters.
Caruso has spent over $11 million on advertising so far, elevating his public safety agenda and pushing more progressive candidates to address crime. Bass has rolled out a public safety and homelessness platform that promises to increase the number of police officers on patrol and calls for law enforcement to back up outreach workers. These stances have put her at odds with progressives in Los Angeles who initially supported her when she announced her mayoral candidacy.