With just two days left for Gov. Jerry Brown to sign and veto bills, we finally got answers this week on many of the biggest bills to come out of the legislative session. Here’s a rundown:
Equal Pay: The governor signed SB 358, one of the strongest equal pay measures in the nation. It gives employees more leeway to challenge pay discrepancies and to seek information about how much coworkers make.
Aid in Dying: This was one of the biggest wildcards for Brown. The governor is Catholic, and the Catholic Church lobbied strongly against the measure. Brown said in a signing message that while he met with stakeholders on all sides of the bill – which allows terminally ill patients access to life-ending medication with assistance from a doctor – his decision was ultimately personal: “In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death.”
Digital Search Warrants: SB 178 by Sens. Mark Leno and Joel Anderson requires law enforcement to get a warrant before searching people’s texts, emails and other digital communications and data.
Police Data: Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s AB 953 requires police to keep data on the race of those they stop, and to make the data public. Police are pissed – one official told the L.A. Times: “There is no racial profiling. There just isn’t.”
Climate Change: SB 350 made headlines long before it was signed because its most aggressive piece was stripped out, a capitulation to the oil lobby. Still, the bill codifies Brown’s goal to generate half of the state’s electricity from clean sources by 2030.
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With the clock still ticking, this handy tool is the best way to check in on the fate of any remaining bills.
The other bills from San Diego legislators signed into law this week:
• Bills by Speaker Toni Atkins ban the sales of most ivory products, exempt certain tribal projects from CEQA, add environmental justice advocates to the California Air Resources Board, require environmental regulators to create projects that help polluted communities, facilitate more dockside fish markets (reminder: we were the first to reveal San Diego fishermen’s struggle to make this happen) and make the San Diego River Conservancy permanent.
• Bills by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein up the number of allowed beds in certain health facilities, give the KABOO music festival in Del Mar exemptions from an alcohol marketing rule and let vets licensed in other states help in animal-cruelty cases in California. (A similar Maienschein bill that would let vets licensed in other states help during natural disasters was vetoed.)
• A bill by Assemblyman Brian Jones creates a disciplinary review committee for private investigators.
• A bill by Assemblyman Rocky Chavez lets the children or spouses of disabled veterans enter into Disabled Veterans Business Enterprise contracts after the veteran’s death.
• A bill by Sen. Marty Block changes the rules for lenders and borrowers in small-dollar loans.
• Bills by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber impose harsh penalties on prosecutors who withhold evidence, and impose rules on Cal State campuses before they hike student success fees.
• A bill by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez prevents juveniles in detention from being strip-searched within sight of officers of the opposite sex. It was inspired by this CityBeat investigation. Other Gonzalez bills signed by Brown make cheerleading an official high school sport and add more scrutiny to utility execs’ bonuses.
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Though she notched some legislative wins, Gonzalez mostly had beef with the governor this week. He vetoed three of her bills, and to the surprise of no one, Gonzalez reacted strongly. The words, they were exchanged.
One would have required district attorneys to be notified about parole hearings. The timing of hearings, Brown wrote, “is best left to the wise discretion of the parole board.”
Another would’ve closed a loophole that lets workers’ comp claims be denied over pre-existing conditions that exclusively affect women, like pregnancy and menopause. Brown acknowledged in his veto message that “the workers compensation system must be free of gender bias” but said the bill relies on “an ill-defined and unscientific standard.”
Gonzalez sent out a scathing response in a press release:
“I have said time and time again how much I admire and believe in this governor, but on this issue, he is dead wrong. With all due respect, a woman’s breasts are worth as much as the prostate of a male coworker and they should be valued as such if they were lost in a workplace injury. Women should not be penalized for being pregnant or going through menopause, or be told the loss of a breast due to cancer acquired in the workplace has no value in California’s workers compensation system. I remain more committed than ever to continuing this fight for true equality in the workplace.”
Then came a sort of surprising move from Brown Thursday, when he vetoed a bill close to Gonzalez’s heart. That brings us to …
Civic San Diego Lives to Permit Another Day
Gonzalez’s AB 504 would have given the City Council oversight over big projects approved by Civic San Diego. The nonprofit that handles permitting downtown.
Civic San Diego was created after Brown killed off the state’s redevelopment program – the local redevelopment agency became Civic.
Gonzalez, a longtime labor leader, wanted city officials to be able to extract more benefits for unions out of development deals. But, as Andrew Keatts reports:
“By vetoing the bill, Brown came down strongly on Civic’s side: If cities want to contract with a nonprofit to handle certain planning functions, that’s their prerogative.”
Again, Gonzalez had a response:
“The downtown interests and developers who have shut out workers and communities for the last 40 years can hire an army of lobbyists if they like, but I will not be deterred from doing what’s right.”
Local Agencies to State: Are We Done Saving Water Yet?
Water officials here in San Diego are telling us to use less water. But up in Sacramento, those same officials are making the opposite argument: We should be able to use more water.
At least 10 different local water agencies from around California, including the city of San Diego, are asking the state whether Californians can quit saving so much water if “more normal” rainfall and snowfall return.
Right now, city water users across the state are being asked to use 25 percent less water. Gov. Jerry Brown imposed those emergency cuts earlier this year. In some ways, the 25 percent number doesn’t seem to be tied to anything: It’s just a nice, round number. But it’s also one way for the state to cope with what some scientists call the worst drought in California in over 1,000 years.
Yet local water agencies have a variety of different reasons they shouldn’t have to make cuts as deep as the current ones. Plus, they do not want the state to get into the business of telling them what to even when there’s not a drought emergency.
— Ry Rivard
• The mayors of San Francisco and Oakland are teaming up on a 2016 initiative to raise the statewide minimum wage “to $11 in 2017 and then gradually increase it a dollar a year until it reaches $15 in 2021,” BusinessWire reports.
A bill that would’ve raised the minimum wage to $13 over the next two years got punted by the Assembly toward the end of the session. San Diego will vote in June on raising the wage in the city to $11.50 by 2017.
• Billionaire Tom Steyer has agreed to fund an initiative to raise cigarette taxes. The extra money would go to reimburse doctors who treat low-income patients. (Sacramento Bee)
• A proposed ballot measure that would impose price controls on drugs purchased by the state hasn’t even qualified yet but is facing major pushback from drug companies. (Sacramento Bee)
• Former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio and former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed debuted two pension-reform initiatives this week – they hope one will make it to the 2016 ballot. Here’s how Andrew Keatts summarized them earlier this week:
One would give public employees hired starting in 2019 a 401(k)-style retirement plan, rather than pensions with payouts guaranteed by government agencies, much like the pension-reform measure passed by city voters in 2012. The other would cap how much public agencies could contribute to employees’ salaries based on a percent of their salary.
Back when city voters were getting ready to vote on San Diego’s pension reform initiative, our Liam Dillon covered why those efforts are only ever directed at new employees, not existing ones. It all stems from a 1917 legal ruling.
• The California Supreme Court seems willing to let voters weigh in on the controversial Citizens United ruling. That’s a shift from last year, when the court yanked Prop. 49 from the ballot. The measure would’ve asked voters to weigh in on overturning Citizens United, which lets corporations and unions spend unlimited money on federal elections, but wouldn’t have created any actual law. (Los Angeles Times)
Golden State News
• The New York Times marvels at California’s progress in converting to clean energy sources.
• The folks at Reveal recently pinpointed “the biggest known residential water customer in California,” someone in Bel-Air “whose water bill for the 12 months ending April 1 likely topped $90,000.” The L.A. Times’ Steve Lopez got in on the action and tried to track the water hog down.
• “Public colleges have no obligation to protect students from crimes committed by other students,” a state appellate court ruled this week. The ruling stemmed from a stabbing in a UCLA chemistry lab. (Chronicle of Higher Ed)