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The California state Capitol / Image via Shutterstock

It’s arguably the most hectic week of the year in Sacramento: With a deadline of midnight Friday to pass all bills for the year, the Legislature has been churning through hundreds of measures.

More big decisions are ahead Friday that address housing, policing and wildfires.

There are too many to detail, but here is a snapshot of some of the measures from San Diego lawmakers that have passed so far this week:

  • AB 3080 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, inspired by the #MeToo movement, bars employers from requiring prospective employees to sign forced arbitration agreements as a condition of employment.
  • AB 3131 by Assemblyman Todd Gloria requires law enforcement to take part in a public hearing before receiving or requesting military equipment used for policing.
  • AB 2119 by Gloria affirms the right of transgender youth in foster care to access health care consistent with their gender identity.
  • SB 826 by Sens. Hannah Beth Jackson and Toni Atkins requires every publicly held corporation in California to have a minimum of one woman on its board of directors by the end of 2019. By the end of July 2021, the bill would require a minimum of two women on boards with five members and at least three women on boards with six or more.
  • SB 970 by Atkins requires hotels and motels to train employees on how to spot the signs of human trafficking, and report those signs to law enforcement.
  • SB 1097 by Sen. Ben Hueso imposes greater reporting requirements on the state with regards to childhood lead exposure.

VOSD’s connection to the bill flurry: Two bills passed by Gonzalez this week were inspired by revelations uncovered by Voice of San Diego.

  • AB 1974, would bar a school district from penalizing a student for any debts. It was inspired in part by Mario Koran’s report that San Diego Unified sent low-income parents who couldn’t afford to pay fees for their kids to ride the school bus to a collections agency. The bill is aimed at preventing all kinds of retaliatory moves by school districts as a result of students not being able to afford school fees.
  • AB 1584 attempts to close a loophole that allowed the San Diego Police Department to collect DNA from juveniles despite a state law limiting the practice, as VOSD contributor Kelly Davis reported. The bill requires law enforcement officers to have a court order, warrant or consent from both a minor and his or her parent before a DNA sample can be taken.

San Diego’s Role in Landmark Climate Bill

This week, the Legislature approved a plan for California to get all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2045.

The Senate bill, written by Sen. Kevin De León, passed out of the Assembly thanks to whipping by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.

“Like any tough bill that’s historical in nature and large, sometimes it takes a couple rounds,” she said in an interview.

The state’s major utilities, including San Diego Gas & Electric, opposed the plan, but they had their hands full seeking relief from wildfire liabilities, and were unable to stop it.

The bill does two things. First, it forces utilities to get 60 percent of their power from renewables by 2030, up from a 50 percent target in current law.

Second, it sets a goal of having 100 percent of power sold in the state come from renewable sources by 2045. That part isn’t binding, though, and gives the state and utilities several outs, for instance if the power would be too expensive or unreliable.

If Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill into law, the new standards may affect the future of the community choice energy movement, where local governments are forming their own power-buying agencies in an effort to buy cleaner power and fight climate change.

In San Diego, allies of SDG&E have argued that it’s pointless for the city to start buying its own clean power if the company has to be 100 percent renewable anyway.

The city, though, wants 100 percent of electricity sold within city limits to come from renewable sources by 2035 – 10 years sooner than the non-binding goal the bill would impose on SDG&E. The company has also declined invitations by the city to plan in a clear way for a 100 percent renewable future.

Brown is one of the world’s leading advocates for transitioning to renewable energy, so a bill weaning the state off climate-changing natural gas and coal seems like a no-brainer, but it’s not clear publicly how he views the 100 percent plan.

Lawmakers’ own view of De León may have also played a role in the sausage-making, something Gonzalez alluded to in a floor speech right before the Assembly vote.

“You don’t have to like the author, I don’t care,” Gonzalez said, adding that she thinks De León’s a great guy.

Police Shooting Bill on Hold for the Year

AB 931, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s bill to limit when police can deploy deadly force, is on hold for the year.

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Weber announced this week that the bill didn’t have enough support to clear the Legislature by Friday’s deadline, and would be put on pause and revisited next session. The announcement came after Weber dramatically scaled back the bill.

“Our work continues. We will present a new bill addressing law enforcement use of force in January of next year. I am also especially heartened that a growing number of my Legislative colleagues recognize this as a significant statewide problem and have also committed to support my efforts to change how policing is done in California,” Weber said in a statement.

Blame it on the Alcohol

Alcohol has a strong hold on the California Capitol – a fact that has made itself known in all kinds of stories over the years of legislators behaving badly under the influence, including many from San Diego.

The Sacramento Bee this week examined the role of alcohol in Sacramento’s culture in the light of incidents involving Sen. Joel Anderson and an assemblyman who says he was shoved by a union official.

“Lawmakers point out that they are largely stuck away from home for three or four nights a week with not much else to do. Many lobbyists believe that these receptions outside the Capitol are where the real work gets done,” reports the Bee.

Earlier this year, VOSD revealed that San Diego County Water Authority was investigating its general manager over an incident in which she allegedly sexually harassed a co-worker while intoxicated at an industry event in Sacramento.

Sen. Ben Hueso was arrested and charged with a DUI in 2014 after partying with colleagues. He pleaded no contest to a lesser charge.

Anderson is being investigated by a Senate committee for an incident at a Sacramento bar earlier this month in which he allegedly threatened a woman.

  • Meanwhile, alcohol was also a factor this week in actual legislation: The Legislature passed a bill that would let bars in seven cities (no, San Diego is not included) stay open until 4 a.m. A similar bill that failed last year was written by Anderson.

Water Authority Has an Ally in Atkins

The San Diego County Water Authority helped delay a legislative hearing about the future of the State Water Project, the 700-mile water system that provides water from Northern California’s rivers to over 25 million state residents.

The Water Authority is seeking to lower its own rates, even though it may be increasing others’. The agency hopes the state or the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California will agree to spare San Diego ratepayers certain expenses associated with Gov. Jerry Brown’s $20 billion twin tunnels project. After years of outright skepticism, the Water Authority supports the project, but only under certain conditions.

For years, the Water Authority has argued Metropolitan overcharges San Diego because of the way it divvies up water costs. Last year, after years of litigation, courts found Metropolitan’s rates are, by and large, fair.

“I know what you’re trying to do is revisit a court ruling you lost,” Peer Swan, a board member at an Orange County water agency, told Water Authority lobbyist Glenn Farrel during a recent water industry conference in San Diego.

Farrel said the Water Authority is looking out for its customers.

When he was asked if the agency’s strategy might incur the wrath of other water agencies, Farrel replied, “Too late.”

The Water Authority seems to have a powerful ally in Sacramento: Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins.

Atkins seemed spooked by Water Authority numbers that argue the tunnels could cost San Diego customers about $20 a month. Metropolitan argues the project will cost about $5 per month.

She used a recent confirmation hearing for Karla Nemeth, the governor’s choice to lead the Department of Water Resources, to seek similar guarantees that San Diego ratepayers would be spared certain costs. Though Brown initially appointed Nemeth to the spot in January, she was not confirmed by the Senate until this week.

The hearing that the Water Authority has sought to delay has been rescheduled several times. Now, it’s scheduled for Sept. 11. That’s after the end of the regular legislative session, but the hearing will be conducted by a joint budget committee that can meet on its own.

As the Desert Sun reported: “In June, the company hired a lobbying firm led by Greg Campbell, former chief of staff to Senate leader Toni Atkins, who can stop the bill from getting a vote in the Senate. Cadiz hired three more lobbying firms this week, including one led by Justin Fanslau, Atkins’ former legislative director. Faced with a similar bill that could have blocked its project last year, Cadiz hired Mercury Public Affairs, one of whose partners is former Assembly Speaker Fabián Nuñez, a friend and mentor to then-Senate leader Kevin de León.”

Golden State News

Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled Glen Farrel’s name.

Sara Libby

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

Ry Rivard

Ry Rivard was formerly a reporter for Voice of San Diego. He wrote about water and power.

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