Police officers arrest a protester in downtown San Diego amid demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

As protests against police violence that broke out across the country this week were met with more police violence, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez announced a measure seeking to rein in police use of non-lethal force, like rubber bullets.

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who passed last year’s landmark law changing the standards guiding police use of deadly force, is partnering on the effort, along with Assemblyman Ash Kalra and Sen. Scott Weiner.

“Breaking a city-imposed curfew is not a sufficient basis for use of rubber bullets. Crowd control where there is no rioting is not proper grounds to use rubber bullets,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “It is past time for the state of California to set clear standards on when and how these bullets are used by law enforcement.”

Though the deadline to introduce new bills has passed for the year, lawmakers can scrap the language in existing bills and replace it entirely, a process known as gut and amend.

Weber and other members of the California Black Legislative Caucus also pointed to their priority bills this week in the wake of the protests, and urged other lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom to carry the proposals through.

The previous day Newsom had told a predominantly black church that black communities bore no responsibility for the unrest — public institutions were responsible and accountable for the moment.

Weber described a “pandemic of hate” and reached into her own past and the nation’s past to make her case. “The issue we face for over 400 years is the enslavement, the mistreatment and often the efforts of genocide of the African in this country,” she said. “That is a fact of life.”

Along with Weber’s bills AB 3121 and ACA 5 (more on those below), which both cleared the Assembly Appropriations Committee this week, the caucus also highlighted these as priorities:

  • AB 1460 requires every Cal State student to take one ethnic studies course
  • ACA 6 restores voting rights for the formerly incarcerated
  • AB 1950 limits terms of probation to two years
  • AB 2342 allows people on parole to get credit for education, training and more
  • AB 2917 requires the Department of Justice to review deadly force policies required by agency
  • AB 1185 authorizes a county to create a sheriff oversight board, either by official action or vote of the people

“They’re in the hopper for 2020 and we’re counting on the governor and the Legislature to help us continue these,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, a Democrat from Sacramento.

The Los Angeles Times noted several others in its coverage of the press conference, including SB 144, which ends the collection of many administrative court fees, and AB 2405, which establishes a right to housing for all families in 2026.

Bry Zeroes in on State Legislation, Again

San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Bry has focused a great deal of her campaign for mayor on policy measures the mayor’s office has virtually no role in.

Her campaign launched by aggressively opposing a bill meant to boost density in areas near high-frequency transit stops. That measure has since died, but Bry’s focus on Sacramento has not. She’s since sent out campaign missives about AB 5, and this week brought up another state bill she doesn’t like, this one written by her opponent in the mayor’s race, Assemblyman Todd Gloria.

She wrote in a campaign email that AB 3234 would “turn San Diego neighborhoods into a Monopoly board and make [Gloria’s] speculator friends ‘The Banker.’”

That’s a bit more colorful than the legislative analyses compiled for the bill put it.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee analysis says the bill “seeks to encourage development of small lot homes by allowing cities and counties to adopt local ordinances, exempt from CEQA, that streamline the subdivision process for small lot subdivisions and meet certain objective standards.”

At a May meeting of the Assembly Local Government Committee, Gloria said a lack of housing was one of the causes of homelessness and large parcels of developable land in urban areas are going unused “because the process for dividing the lots are cumbersome. This unintentionally discourages the creation of homes that are intended to be more affordable by design.”

He argued that the bill would include anti-displacement protections and would provide the least impact on the environment because it’s aimed at already urbanized areas. It also allows cities to opt in, rather than mandate they participate.

“This bill should help spur production of desperately needed housing units while maintain local control of planning decisions,” he said.

Several organizations offered support for the bill, including the California Building Industry Association.

Eric Phillips, a vice president with the California chapter of the America Planning Association, said Gloria’s bill would help boost the state’s supply of middle-income housing. Previous housing production bills in the Legislature have tended to focus on multifamily rental units, he said, “which is clearly important, but it’s not the only form of housing production that needs support in California.”

No one spoke in opposition to the bill at that meeting, and there is no official opposition registered in either of the bill analyses created by the Legislature so far.

It unanimously passed the Assembly’s Local Government Committee and the Appropriations Committee, with votes from members of both parties, including local Assembly members Tasha Boerner Horvath and Randy Voepel.

A Subdued Suspense Week

Suspense week is usually a big deal in Sacramento, but got far less attention because of how the coronavirus has upended normal legislative proceedings and timelines, and because of the avalanche of police news this week.

Nevertheless, the Assembly Appropriations Committee, chaired by San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, decided the fate of a huge pile of bills. The committee places any bill with a significant price tag into its suspense file, and announces whether to advance them during one or two marathon hearings.

Local Bills We’re Keeping an Eye on That Made it Through

AB 1850 by Gonzalez is the measure to further revise and clarify AB 5, the landmark law Gonzalez passed last year limiting when employers can classify workers as independent contractors. AB 1850 carves out further exemptions from the law for freelance journalists, photographers and musicians, among others, and also empowers district attorneys to bring misclassification lawsuits against employers.

AB 1835 by Weber closes a loophole that allowed school districts to roll over funds earmarked for vulnerable students into their general funds.

AB 1935 by Assemblyman Randy Voepel requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a program to fund a study of mental health among women veterans.

AB 2152 by Assemblyman Todd Gloria prohibits the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits from pet stores.

AB 2360 by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein requires health plans and insurers, by Jan. 1, 2021, to establish a telehealth consultation program that allows providers who treat children and pregnant and postpartum women access to a psychiatrist.

AB 2876 by Assemblywoman Marie Waldron requires the Department of Health Care Services to report certain information regarding the California Medication Assisted Treatment Program Expansion Project to the Legislature, including the number of patients, by county, treated through the program.

AB 3121 by Weber lays the groundwork for reparations with a task force to study the issue. CalMatters has a good analysis of the measure here.

ACA 5 is a constitutional amendment requiring voter approval by Weber that would undo a ban on affirmative action.

The Not-So-Lucky Ones

The Assembly Appropriations Committee also put the kibosh on AB 2261, which would have created a legal framework for facial recognition technology. Lilly Irani, a UC San Diego professor and member of the Trust SD Coalition, which lobbied Gonzalez, said the bill was weak and confusing and provided “limited notification and transparency in public sites and no protection in workplaces, hospitals, and other private sites.” She predicted it would have turned workers into “lab rats for this new complicated technology.” Its sole sponsor was Microsoft, which is developing facial recognition technology.

A full list of bills passed and held by the committee this week can be found here.

Gonzalez Has a New Chief of Staff

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez will have a new chief of staff beginning Monday.

Evan McLaughlin, her longtime aide (and a former Voice of San Diego staffer), is stepping aside but he’s not going far. He’ll continue to work on 2020 campaign efforts, including the effort to defeat a ballot measure aiming to exempt rideshare drivers from AB 5. He’ll also serve as campaign manager for Gonzalez’s 2022 secretary of state run.

Shubhangi Domokos, a legislative assistant who served as bill manager for AB 5, will take over as chief of staff.

“Lorena took a chance on me seven years ago. She named me chief of staff even though I had no Capitol experience and was younger than every single one of my counterparts in the Assembly’s Democratic Caucus,” McLaughlin wrote in an email. “It’s in that same spirit that we agreed it was time to empower other team members with elevated leadership roles, and that I would have a chance to take on new professional experiences while also building up the campaign organization we need to win statewide in 2022.”

Golden State News

Sara Libby

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

Jesse Marx

Jesse Marx is Voice of San Diego's associate editor.

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