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Sacramento Report: The Suspense Is Over (for Now)

Here’s a snapshot of some of the bills from local lawmakers that made it through the dreaded suspense file.

Local exotic dancers protest outside of Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s office in downtown San Diego. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Let’s be honest, there wasn’t much suspense over whether AB 5, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s bill to codify a Supreme Court ruling on worker classification, was going to make it through suspense file day – when hundreds of bills are passed or held in mere seconds.

Gonzalez is the chair of the committee, and though she’s said in the past that her bills are treated like all the others, the advantages of being in charge were pretty clear this year: Of the many bills of hers that had to go through the suspense process, none was held and only one was converted to a two-year bill.

Another big winner in the process was San Diego Assemblyman Brian Maienschein – whose transition from Republican to Democrat earlier this year was cheered by Gonzalez – who had at least nine bills move forward.

In all, the Assembly appropriations committee decided the fates of 721 bills, the most this decade, Gonzalez noted on Twitter. Of those, 472 advanced. Any bill that would cost a significant amount of state money to carry out must pass through the suspense file.

The same process was also carried out on the Senate side, where the major shocker was the decision of that committee’s chair to hold SB 50, Sen. Scott Weiner’s measure to allow far more housing construction near transit. That bill, along with Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s measure to change the standards guiding police use of deadly force, was probably the most high-profile piece of legislation this year.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the most notable bills from San Diego lawmakers that made it through the Assembly’s suspense file. (CALmatters has a good roundup of how things played out across the board, and a full list of how each bill was decided is available here.)

AB 5: Gonzalez’s measure to limit the instances in which businesses can classify workers as independent contractors lives to fight another day. Indeed, pretty much all this bill has done so far is fight: It’s ignited the ire of strippers, and as VOSD’s Jesse Marx reported this week, it’s put newspapers and other media outlets in an uncomfortable spot as they grapple with the possibility that they might not be able to work with freelance journalists any longer.

AB 197: Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s bill would require schools to offer full-day kindergarten, beginning in the 2022-2023 school year.

AB 372: Assemblyman Randy Voepel’s bill would create a pilot program to allow state workers to bring their infants to work. It now has Gonzalez as a coauthor.

AB 415: It wouldn’t be a legislative session without Maienschein writing bills related to pets. This measure would offer financial compensation to certain crime victims to pay for expenses related to relocating with a pet.

AB 423: This bill by Assemblyman Todd Gloria would shake up the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District by reconstituting it with a more diverse group of members that would be presumably more favorable to stricter regulations.

AB 1184: Gloria’s bill would clarify the Public Records Act to specify that agencies must keep emails for at least two years.

AB 1731: Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath’s bill would sharply limit short-term vacation rentals in San Diego County.

San Diego City Council Backs Changes to Police Use of Force

The San Diego City Council in a surprisingly emotional vote that saw numerous Council members shed tears threw its support behind AB 392, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s bill that would change the standards guiding police use of deadly force.

The resolution was introduced by Councilwoman Monica Montgomery, who was elected in 2018 in part by animating social justice advocates and emphasizing the need for police reforms.

Montgomery said she wants to dispel with the idea that supporting reform and accountability equates to being anti-police.

“We are still having the conversation that if we change policy to make people safer, that we are against police. And that is not the case. That is not the case. And I – above all things, while I am here, above any policy that I want changed, that is the conversation that I really want to change, that we can have a reasonable conversation about use of force, we can have a reasonable conversation about transparency and accountability without it being antagonistic,” she said.

Councilwoman Jen Campbell said she marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and took his lessons to heart. When he died, she said, “I promised I would never stand quietly again in the face of injustice and I never have. I would like to second this motion.”

Councilman Chris Ward said that it made sense for the Council to weigh in on the bill because it dealt quite literally with the life and death of residents.

“I hear the pressure that too many everyday citizens carry with them the weight and the fear that holding a cellphone or a pen or keys at the wrong time in the wrong light in the wrong place could be a deadly mistake,” Ward said.

Councilmen Scott Sherman and Mark Kersey voted against the resolution; Councilman Chris Cate did not vote.

The San Diego County Republican Party, meanwhile, blasted supporters of the measure for spreading “misinformation, fear, and divisive rhetoric to create a false narrative about law enforcement.”

The Republican-led County Board of Supervisors voted last month to formally oppose AB 392.

Compromise Avoids ‘Water Tax’

Senate leader Toni Atkins announced a compromise this week to avoid a new statewide “water tax.” For the past year, San Diego officials have fought against a new fee of about $1 a month that would ensure hundreds of thousands of Californians could drink clean water.

Small, rural water districts often cannot afford upgrades to aging treatment plants and have to deal with extra pollution in their groundwater from nearby farming operations. Gov. Gavin Newsom and the head of the state’s natural resources secretary, Wade Crowfoot, made ending that inequality a top priority but the idea of a new tax on water was easily lampooned.

The Senate’s solution is just to set aside $150 million a year from a now-flush state budget and spend it in those areas. So instead of a special water tax, this just takes existing taxes and spends them on water.

The Senate’s compromise also includes approval of a separate bill to merge small water districts that consistently fail to provide safe water. This would presumably create larger, better districts.

Ry Rivard

Golden State News

Will Fritz contributed to this report.

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