An empty Assembly chamber in the California State Capitol building.
An empty Assembly chamber in the California State Capitol building. / Image via Shutterstock

The fallout from last week’s dramatic end of the legislative session is still going – and it’s led to plenty of demand for lawmakers to return to the Capitol to tend to the work that got left on the table.

The reviews have been brutal.

From the Union-Tribune editorial board:

Special sessions in the fall are rarely popular with lawmakers seeking re-election. But California badly needs them to reassemble — either in person or remotely — to take up huge, pressing issues.

From the New York Times op-ed page:

But in the end, even here, it was essentially business as usual in a State Capitol where police unions have long wielded enormous power. The measures that passed this year were either noncontroversial or so diluted as to have little if any immediate impact.

From the Sacramento Bee op-ed page:

“Why is there so much passion for petty squabbles and semantic battles, but not for the progress Californians have been promised?”

From the L.A. Times’ George Skelton:

Some lawmakers think Newsom should call a special legislative session to pass wildfire and housing legislation. The governor should forget about it until after the pandemic and legislators get their acts back together.

I polled the members of San Diego’s state delegation on their desire for a special session. Several Republicans and one Democrat said clearly that they supported calling one. One was noncommittal. Here’s what they all had to say.

Sen. Pat Bates

Bates laid out her support for a special session in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom signed by several Republican lawmakers.

The letter laid out what they believed should be addressed in the session:

Sen. Brian Jones

“I would support a special session if there’s going to be a conversation and debate amongst the Legislature regarding ending some of the governor’s emergency service orders. I certainly don’t think we need to end all of them. But we do need to have a conversation about it, and I believe the Legislature needs to be a part of that conversation – and we haven’t been. I don’t think the governor – certainly he wouldn’t call a special session for that conversation, but if we do have a special session, that needs to be a part of it.”

  • Side note: Jones also told me he’s mostly recovered from COVID-19 after testing positive and forcing the rest of the Republican delegation into quarantine. He said his symptoms were relatively mild – he felt fatigued and lost his sense of taste but never had a fever or cough.

Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron

“I strongly support having a special session. There are many problems plaguing California at the moment that demand urgent attention. We need to create an economic and COVID recovery plan, address school reopenings and funding and respond to wildfires and rolling blackouts. … Apparently, my Democratic colleagues in the Legislature and the governor believe these problems can wait until next year – after the election.”

Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath

“In the middle of a pandemic, raging wildfires and economic crisis, there is important work the Legislature can and should be doing in a special session. There is also work to do here in my district helping ensure that our constituents have a roof over their heads, food on the their tables and money to pay their bills. Only the governor can call a special session, and if he does, I will be there, ready to roll up my sleeves and do the work Californians elected me to do. In the meantime, I will focus on serving my constituents by helping them with EDD issues, supporting our struggling small businesses and continue ensuring that our frontline workers have what they need in this pandemic.”

Assemblyman Todd Gloria

From Gloria’s spokesman, Nick Serrano:

“Assemblymember Gloria supports the calling of special sessions to address the Legislature’s major unfinished business – namely, housing production, police reform and wildfire mitigation funding. He stands ready to return to the Capitol should the governor decide to make that call.”

Gov Signs AB 5 Fixes, Nonprofit Relief Measure Into Law

  • Newsom wasted little time signing into law the measure that changes and updates AB 5, the landmark law written by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez that limits when employers can classify workers as independent contractors (and exempts certain employers from those rules). The new law kills off the previous requirement that freelance journalists can write only 35 pieces per year for a single outlet before triggering employment requirements, and carves out further exemptions for youth sports coaches, music industry professionals and others.
  • Newsom also signed SB 934 by Sen. Pat Bates, which eliminates filing fees for nonprofits applying for a state tax exemption.

Few Californians Eligible for Free Internet Program Know it Exists

Many San Diegans have yet to enroll in a program that would provide them with free internet — because they don’t know it exists.

In a virtual town hall on Wednesday, Sen. Ben Hueso addressed the racial disparities in access to telemedicine services. The primary obstacle that families are facing is getting a steady internet connection and enough screens for everyone to use.

Hueso said 117,000 residents in the 40th District are eligible for California Lifeline, a free internet program run by wireless carrier TruConnect, but haven’t signed up. Many of his constituents are Latinos who have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic: They’re essential workers, and often live in multi-generational households.

Nathan Johnson, a representative from TruConnect and a panelist on the town hall, expressed his ongoing frustrations with the California Public Utilities Commission. He says that he’s experienced “a great deal of reticence and non-movement” when it comes to promoting the program to the people who meet its requirements.

José Hernández, president of IDEATE California, a policy development and public relations company, agreed with Johnson, and claimed that “no other program in California has such dismal participation.”

Accessing a reliable internet connection is a struggle beyond Hueso’s district. Previous reporting by Voice of San Diego has shown that major internet providers don’t even reach rural areas like Fallbrook, Rainbow, and Julian. As California moves forward with telemedicine and online learning, communities in San Diego with limited internet access must make long trips to broadband accessible areas if they want to get to their doctor’s appointments and virtual classes.

Kara Grant

Golden State News

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

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