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As the Legislature returns from summer recess and heads into the fourth quarter of the session, the priorities and bills to watch look an awful lot like the priorities and bills to watch at this time last year.
Do you get déjà vu when legislators are with you?
By that I mean, as the Legislature returns from summer recess and heads into the fourth quarter of the session, the priorities and bills to watch look an awful lot like the priorities and bills to watch at this time last year. In many cases, they’re new versions of the same bills that lawmakers failed to get over the finish line last year.
Sen. Toni Atkins’ SB 9, which would allow duplexes and fourplexes on single-family lots, and several police reform measures, are re-dos from last session and remain at the top of Democratic lawmakers’ agendas.
I checked in with a few San Diego lawmakers this week to see which of their own measures they’re prioritizing in this final stretch, as well as other measures they plan to support or advocate for.
Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, the Assembly Republican leader, said her two biggest priorities are AB 692, which extends grant funding to the city of Escondido for the Lake Wohlford Dam project to 2028, and AB 653, which creates a grant program awarded to counties to administer medically assisted therapy to treat a substance use disorder.
“I have long been an advocate for expanded access to mental health care as way to restore lives and to save taxpayer dollars by reducing costs associated with treatment, along with many related societal costs including homelessness and public safety,” Waldron wrote in an email.
She formed an unlikely partnership with San Francisco Sen. Scott Weiner to co-author SB 221, which closes loopholes in current law by ensuring that HMOs and health insurers provide patients with timely follow-up care, avoiding lengthy delays in treatment that often lead to longer recovery times, worse overall outcomes, and even increased mortality rates.
“Delayed access to treatment often leads to worsening conditions, lengthy and more costly care, and often forces patients to rely on expensive emergency room treatment. On the other hand, requiring timely follow-up appointments will lead to shorter courses of treatment, reducing costs and saving taxpayer dollars,” Waldron said.
“My biggest priority going into the final stretch of the 2021 legislative session is ensuring that my bill AB 556 becomes law,” Assemblyman Brian Maienschein wrote in an email. “This bill builds upon legislation I authored last year, AB 2014, which gave victims of fertility fraud the ability to seek legal action once the crime had been discovered, as opposed to when the crime was commissioned. AB 556 would give fertility fraud victims the opportunity to pursue legal action in California’s civil courts to recover actual damages, or $50,000, whichever is greater.”
Earlier this year, VOSD contributor Jared Whitlock laid out several local cases of fertility fraud and the challenges victims face in seeking restitution.
Maienschein said his other focuses for the end of the session will be supporting San Diego’s small businesses, advancing public education and helping the Employment Development Department handle its influx of claims.
Assemblyman Chris Ward, who’s in the midst of his first session in Sacramento (as a lawmaker, that is, he was a longtime legislative staffer), singled out four measures from his bill package that he’s hoping to push across the finish line:
AB 897 directs climate adaptation decision-making toward new regional networks; AB 500 reduces permit barriers for accessory dwelling units and supportive housing in the coastal zone, and restores the Coastal Commission’s authority to protect and provide affordable housing in the coastal zone; AB 223 makes it unlawful to remove dudleya – a succulent plant – from its natural habitat and makes it unlawful to sell any dudleya illegally taken from its natural habitat; and AB 340 allows Californians with ScholarShare and other 529 savings accounts to utilize federal SECURE Act funds to pay student loan debt and qualifying education expenses.
Ward’s spokesman, A.J. Estrada, wrote in an email that Ward is also working on upcoming budget trailer bills focusing on climate resiliency, drought and wildfire prevention.
Last weekend, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher announced that his wife, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Fletcher wrote that though the cancer was detected early and is currently Stage 0, “it is also aggressive and hormone positive … and given her family history, she will have to have aggressive treatment.”
Gonzalez followed up in typical fashion on Twitter: “Breast Cancer: just another hater trying to kill my vibe. Not. Going. To. Happen.”
She wrote in another message that “I don’t feel sick at all, there is no lump, my cancer was detected thanks [to] calcifications on a normal screening mammogram. Early.”
For years, Gonzalez has spoken publicly about losing her mother to breast cancer and urged women to get regular screenings. One such message from 2019 says: “I’m almost 5 years older than my Mom was when she first was diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s why today, like every year for the past 13, I am getting my yearly mammogram. Be diligent. Get screened.”
Attorney General Rob Bonta filed an amicus brief this week – a legal filing in which a person or group who’s not part of a lawsuit weighs in to support one side – backing a San Diego ordinance requiring hotels to offer opportunities for laid-off employees to get their jobs back, as hospitality demand returns. (Disclosure: My husband works for the California Department of Justice.)
The San Diego County Lodging Association sued over the measure in federal court in late 2020, arguing that the ordinance violates the U.S. and state constitutions because both “prohibit governmental bodies from passing any law interfering with the obligations set forth in already existing employment contracts,” the Union-Tribune reported.
The state of California, Bonta wrote, “has a substantial interest in preserving the right of local authorities to enact necessary legislation to mitigate the harsh economic effects of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.”
He noted that the state recently passed a similar law, SB 93, which “expressly allows for the adoption of local recall ordinances like that adopted by the city of San Diego.”