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State Sen. Toni Atkins introduced one of the first bills to the Senate floor shortly after being sworn in Monday.

The bill, SB 2, closely resembles another bill, AB 1335, that Atkins put forth last year as an Assembly member. Like AB 1335, it would impose a $75 fee on real estate recording documents. The money would help fund construction of low-income housing projects.

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AB 1335 was one of Atkins’ most ambitious bills. It made it through the committee process, but didn’t get the two-thirds vote on the floor it needed to pass last year.

“Some types of legislation take longer than others to become law,” Atkins said. “With a two-thirds vote hurdle, my affordable-housing bill has a high bar. But this is a new Legislature with new members, and the housing crisis has only gotten worse since I proposed this idea two years ago. We’ve also made the bill better. We got close with AB 1335, and I’m optimistic that we’ll see more support for SB 2 and get it passed.”

SB 2 incorporates some changes. It would also allow the money to be used for community plan updates or fiscal incentives for local governments to approve new low-income housing.

The bill is part of a California Rebuild package that Senate Democrats put forward on the first day of the session and also included other bills that would address funding shortfalls in transportation and infrastructure.

Among those are SB 1 and SB 3, both written by Sen. Jim Beall of San Jose. SB 1 is a holdover from the special transportation session and would increase the gas tax and levy a fee on zero-emissions vehicles to fund transportation infrastructure, including transit improvements and road repairs. SB 3 would create a $3 billion statewide housing bond to fund affordable housing programs.

“In one way, introducing a bill on the first day is a symbolic gesture,” Atkins said. “The message it sends to Californians is that we’re not wasting any time in tackling the state’s biggest challenges. That’s why you saw the Senate introduce a package of important infrastructure bills on the first day, including my SB 2. But it’s also practical – the sooner we get started on a bill, the more time we have to do everything we need to get it through the legislative process.”

Maya Srikrishnan

Immigration – and Trump – at the Forefront

There were many old and new faces as the Legislature swore in new members and got down to business this week, but most of the proceedings were focused on someone who wasn’t there: President-elect Donald Trump.

There was Speaker Anthony Rendon’s fiery call to action at the swearing-in ceremony:

“Californians should be wary of the national calls for unity and healing.

Unity must be separated from complicity.

And we must be defiant whenever justice, fairness, and righteousness require.

Californians do not need healing. We need to fight.”

Both houses of the Legislature quickly took up resolutions opposing any future anti-immigrant policies put forward by Trump. Two Republicans joined 55 Democrats in passing the Assembly measure, including San Diego Assemblyman Brian Maienschein.

But Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, who was an outspoken opponent of Trump’s all year, opposed the idea of criticizing Trump out of the gate.

“To throw down a gauntlet and say ‘here we go’ without ever having time to discuss this” is inappropriate, Chavez said, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Two other San Diego lawmakers – Sen. Ben Hueso and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez – alluded to Trump as they assumed the roles of chair and vice-chair, respectively, of the Latino Caucus.

“Together, we all stand committed to protecting the families in our state who work hard and just want a better life for their children,” Gonzalez said in a release. “The Latino Caucus has always been a strong voice for achieving that mission in California.  But we face a new challenge nationally and our community is looking to us for the strength that’s needed to protect families, accessible health care and the good jobs that we know are needed to make California great.”

Hueso, for his part, introduced a bill on the first day of the session that would create a program to provide all immigrants in removal proceedings with legal services.

California Democrats have a supermajority in the Legislature, which means as they try to pass policies protecting undocumented immigrants and insulating the state from Trump policies, they have the numbers to use so-called urgency clauses – which put bills into effect as soon as they’re signed, and prevent them from being forced to a referendum.

Block Lands a New Gig

Gov. Jerry Brown this week tapped former Sen. Marty Block to chair the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.

After Block eventually bowed out of his re-election bid, allowing now-Sen. Toni Atkins to stroll into the seat, there’s been lots of chatter that he would land a statewide appointment. And he did – one that “pays $146,609 per year, a pay-hike from the $100,113 Block earned as a legislator,” notes the Union-Tribune.

More First-Day Bills

Here are the rest of the bills introduced by San Diego lawmakers on Day One of the new session:

AB 4 by Assemblywoman Marie Waldron would require additional notifications to be sent to voters when their name is registered in the state’s online voter system. California Republicans have already said they’re worried about fraud within the state’s online voter registration system, and this bill appears to be a reaction to that.

AB 5 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez would require certain employers to offer extra hours to part-time workers before making new hires. It’s modeled after a similar ordinance passed in San Jose.

AB 15 by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein is another stab at his effort to increase reimbursement rates for providers who accept Denti-Cal, the state’s program for low-income dental coverage. Maienschein’s last stab at boosting reimbursement failed in August.

AB 27 by Gonzalez and Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez expands the definition of violent felony to include rape and other sex crimes.

SB 53 by Sen. Ben Hueso would allow natural gas vehicles to exceed certain highway weight limits.

Golden State News

• The New York Times lists state Sen. Toni Atkins and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer in its piece on California’s leadership bench.

• The new Legislature has some things going for it – its members are the highest-paid state legislators in the country. And it also has some things to work on: It’s facing its biggest gender gap in decades, and its members skew more white and male than the state as a whole. (L.A. Times, KPCC)

 Californians find public universities increasingly unaffordable, according to a new poll. (Sacramento Bee)

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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