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Aaaaaaaaand we’re back.
The Legislature gets back to work Monday for a whirlwind few weeks of lawmakin’ before the session ends on Sept. 11. The governor then has a month to sign or veto every bill that crossed the finish line.
It’s gonna be an action-packed month. Here are three big things to keep an eye on.
AB 504: The Civic San Diego Bill
Virtually every political fight involving San Diego boils down to business vs. labor. This bill distills that fight well.
(Assemblywoman Lorena) Gonzalez has introduced a bill that would give the Council the final say on downtown development. The Council is seen as more labor friendly than Civic. So the Council could demand, for instance, that new downtown hotels hire a unionized workforce, as a condition of approval.
Last week, CityBeat described how business boosters are pouring money and effort into fighting the bill.
The bill will be up for a floor vote next week, and Gonzalez has until Sept. 4 to make any further amendments, though none are planned at the moment, said Evan McLaughlin, Gonzalez’s chief of staff.
AB 1335: Atkins’ Big Affordable Housing Push
At the beginning of the year, Brian Joseph took note of the fact that Speaker Toni Atkins had yet to introduce any major, speakership-defining bills. Though speakers do plenty beyond writing legislation, Atkins’ team at the time suggested it was a modesty thing:
“She doesn’t need to have her name on everything,” Atkins aide John Casey said. “That’s not her personality.”
Indeed, Casey said that Atkins promised when she was elected speaker to ensure that the Assembly would be run smoothly and efficiently, and that has been her focus. The speaker, of course, has her hands in many bills — all of them do — but Casey said Atkins thinks it’s better that her colleagues get the public credit for the bills.
But Atkins’ team noted one bill on the horizon that was very close to the speaker’s heart: an affordable housing measure.
Fast-forward to now, and AB 1335 is indeed the most ambitious law Atkins has offered. It would establish “a permanent funding source for affordable housing, through a fee on real estate transaction documents, excluding commercial and residential real-estate sales,” according to Atkins’ office.
“The issue of housing affordability has been an important policy focus of the speaker since before she was on the San Diego City Council, so this bill is certainly a high priority,” Casey told me this week.
The bill requires a two-thirds majority vote (meaning it needs at least two Republicans), so unlike a bill that just needs a simple majority, it can technically be voted on any time before the session ends on Sept. 11, Casey said.
The Infrastructure Special Session
On top of its regular work, the Legislature will meet in a special session to address infrastructure. Everyone agrees California’s crumbling roads are a big problem, and it may shock you to learn that there are differences of opinion as to how to address this problem.
Last week, Speaker Toni Atkins told KPBS that the current gas tax isn’t generating enough money and she’s open to new schemes – “Whether it is a fee attached to your insurance, a fee attached to diesel — I’m open to what the fee should be.”
Under a plan released this week by The League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties, San Diego would get more than $1 billion in funding for road repairs over 10 years.
Indeed, most discussion of fixing transportation infrastructure boils down to one thing – money. But one group says that leaves out a big piece of the problem: how the money is managed and spent.
In a letter this week, the California Economic Summit urges leaders to consider creating regional authorities called Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts, which let local governments pool resources and tap private funds to invest in projects like road repairs and transit stations.
“Fixing the state’s roads will take more than money, in other words. It will also take better governance,” the group writes.
But as Steven Greenhut points out in the Union-Tribune, many of Republicans’ ideas about how to fix transportation involve making existing government agencies more efficient. So it’s far from a lock that they’d jump on board with creating more government bureaucracy to deal with the problem.
Gonzalez Unplugged (as Opposed to All Those Other Times When She’s Demure)
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez joined Scott Lewis and Caty Green for our last live podcast of the summer. She talked about everything from religion to CEQA reform to the minimum wage. But perhaps her most forceful comments of the night happened when she was asked about a potential showdown between Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, who’s about to be termed out, and state Sen. Marty Block.
I’ve already endorsed Marty Block. … Toni Atkins has never told me she’s going to run against Marty Block. She told me she would have liked to run if he didn’t run, but I know there are a lot of rumors and maybe she’s planning that. But I cannot for the life of me understand … and I know not everybody here is a Democrat, but they both are – with almost identical voting records, with the same leadership skills, that we’re gonna have this interparty fight while we’re gonna allow a Republican to run unopposed for the mayor’s office and spend millions of dollars to decide if we like Marty Block or Toni Atkins better, which only can be decided on personality because I guarantee you there is no difference in their policy and values. I don’t understand taking on a sitting incumbent that has a good record, and I think there’s no place – she’d have to make the case. I’m for Marty Block, I’m staying for Marty Block, I think he’s been a fabulous legislator.
Dos and Don’ts, Starring Gov. Jerry Brown
Don’t: Use the word “alien” in state labor laws.
That was one of three immigrant-related bills Brown signed this week. The others let non-citizen high schoolers work polls on Election Day, and protect non-citizen minors in civil lawsuits, according to the L.A. Times.
Do: Record the cops.
This bill, also signed by Brown this week, simply reaffirms what was mostly legal already: your right to record interactions with police officers. Still, San Diego Police have arrested multiple people in the last few years for doing just that. For more details about what is allowed – and not allowed – during interactions with law enforcement, check out this comprehensive guide.
Let’s Talk About Sex, Cont.
Last week, John Oliver tackled the abysmal state of sex education in the U.S. on “Last Week Tonight.”
“There is no required standard for sex ed in this country, in fact only 22 states mandate that kids receive it,” Oliver found.
California is one of those states that requires comprehensive sex ed, thanks to a 2005 bill. Two bills before the Legislature this session split in how they deal with sex ed – one would expand it; one would give parents more leverage to keep their kids out of certain classes or assemblies that address it.
AB 329 by San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber would allow the Legislature to update curriculum to reflect “advances in age-appropriate sexual health instruction, including, but not limited to, healthy relationships and dating violence.”
AB 517, written by Assemblyman James Gallagher, would require districts to get permission from parents before students can attend any assemblies, sessions, etc. in which an outside speaker addresses comprehensive sex education or HIV/AIDS education issues.
In May, a Fresno judge sided against a school district that offered an abstinence-centric curriculum. “Access to medically and socially appropriate sexual education is an important public right,” the judge wrote.
San Diego in State News
• KQED has an excellent rundown of how local governments spend enormous sums lobbying the state. San Diego County ranks No. 8 on the list of government spending on lobbyists from 2013 to now.
• Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill from Assemblyman Rocky Chavez that would have extended certain disability benefits for Oceanside lifeguards. Brown OK’d the same benefits for San Diego lifeguards two years ago, but said he’s now worried about escalating costs if too many people get the benefit. (Sac Bee)
• Attorney General Kamala Harris called former Councilman Carl DeMaio’s pension reform measure an attempt “to try to mislead the public.” In a stunning turn of events, DeMaio didn’t care for that description. (Sac Bee)