By Doug Porter
If you want to understand the issues at play in California politics, keep an eye on the last 20 working days of this year’s legislative session in Sacramento.
Bills will be debated, lobbied and amended. Some will face vetoes from the Governor.
San Diego’s delegation to the statehouse has done an impressive job in this session with several measures remaining to be voted on. Today we’ll take a look at some of the legislation, with an emphasis on our local legislators, up for consideration in the coming days.
Key to the Highway
Environmental legislation under consideration includes:
SB32– Sen. Fran Pavley’s bill would call for emission levels by mid-century to be 80 percent below 1990 levels.
AB1288– Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins bill would extend the state’s use of cap-and-trade as a tool to limit greenhouse gas emissions beyond its current 2020 sunset date.
SB350– Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Léon’s legislation would require the state to generate 50 percent of electricity from renewable sources, halve the amount of petroleum used by vehicles, and double the energy efficiency of existing buildings by 2030.
De Leon’s bill has strategic importance. From KQED:
This bill is an attempt to pull off the equivalent of a climate change hat trick: More renewable energy, more energy efficient buildings, and a 50 percent reduction in the use of petroleum by cars and trucks.
That last element — a big downsizing of gasoline use — is the one the oil industry has vowed to kill, with an aggressive PR campaign over the last few weeks and a list of business-leaning Democrats in the Assembly who they hope will lead the charge to weaken the Senate leader’s bill.
Historically, a bill authored by a legislative leader can be hard to stop. And de León holds some powerful cards in his hand — namely, the bills of assemblymembers that have made it to the Senate, bills he could amend or kill to get his way with SB 350.
AB1335– Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins bill would impose a $75 recording fee on deeds and other documents that must be filed when, for instance, you refinance your property. Total fees would be capped at $225 for multiple documents, generating $300 million to $500 million annually.
From Steve Lopez at the Los Angeles Times:
That dedicated source of funding would be made available throughout the state — much of it controlled by local communities — to construct and rehabilitate thousands of housing units that would sell below market rate. The bill would create an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 construction-related jobs, which explains why building councils throughout the state are in favor. Money from AB 1335 could also be used to assist low-income residents with down payments on home purchases…
…But the bill — which has support from Democratic legislators and the California Assn. of Realtors — will require two-thirds approval in Sacramento, meaning that Atkins has to win the support of at least a couple of Republicans.
That won’t be easy, and she knows she’s up against those who begin hyperventilating at the hint of any new tax or government program, as well as those who object to singling out the document-recording industry as a source of revenue.
Civic San Diego
Legislation concerning oversight of Civic San Diego (AB504), introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez is expected to produce a key showdown between big business/developers and community/labor groups as it faces Senate approval.
As Gonzalez is quick to point out, San Diego is the only city in California which delegated its redevelopment to an outside agency. Her bill would allow for an appeal process to the City Council on larger projects.
The battle over this measure amounts to certain business interests seeking to stack the economic deck in their favor. And if they don’t get their way, they’d like us to believe a bunch of doom and gloom predictions about the economy cratering. In other words, politics as usual in San Diego.
Here’s Assm. Gonzalez, via City Beat:
“What I want in San Diego is what all of you have had already in your own cities,” she said at the hearing. “To suggest that San Diego’s development somehow… would stop because it could be appealed to the City Council is almost ludicrous when you look at the downtown development in Los Angeles, subject to community benefits agreements, subject to appeal of the City Council.”
Right now, major land-use decisions made by Civic San Diego are often only appealable to its board, which deals almost exclusively with design aesthetics. Wider discussions around things like labor practices, job quality and increasing affordable housing are considered outside the agency’s purview.
Crime and Punishment
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s proposal (AB953) mandating reporting of data (and expanding the state’s definition of groups impacted by profiling) on law enforcement stops has law enforcement and civil rights groups preparing to take a stand.
State Senator Mark Leno, along with Alpine’s Senator Joel Anderson have introduced the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (SB178), requiring law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant before accessing a person’s digital information.
Technology, media and civil liberties organizations have banded together to support this legislation. It is opposed by law enforcement groups. Similar bills were vetoed by Gov. Brown in 2012 and 2013.
The law enforcement types opposing this legislation are playing the “child pornography” card, saying it wold undermine undercover investigations into child exploitation.
Here’s Sen. Anderson, via ArsTechnica.com:
“One of the issues that I have is that people’s cellphones are being abused,” he said, holding up his iPhone. “It’s clear that that’s happening. I think you need to figure out how to be part of that solution.
“While you want to stop criminal behavior, it can’t be at the price of liberty. If you have the right to break into my house, with a warrant and take my computer, that should be the standard for phones as well.”
The Best of the Rest
(AB1461) by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, would require DMV and state elections officials to automatically (with an opt out) register to vote those who are eligible.
(SB589) by Senator Marty Block would make it clear that California citizens who need conservators retain the right to vote. The bill is supported by the ACLU and disability rights advocates.
FYI- (SB3) by State Senator Mark Leno would raise the state’s minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2017, with automatic future increases based on the rate of inflation. I’ve been told this bill will get vetoed by Gov. Brown in the unlikely event that it passes.
There are special sessions coming for the legislature on transportation and health care.
From the Sacramento Bee:
…Brown called for better transportation funding in his agenda-setting State of the State speech in January. Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, months ago floated a plan incorporating a road user fee to offset dwindling gas tax revenue.
Winning Republican votes will be the crucial issue, since proposals to get more funding with higher gas taxes or vehicle licensing fees would require a two-thirds vote. While the minority party backs the principle of addressing transportation, their aversion to higher taxes has mostly confined them to proposing things like redirecting dollars from cap-and-trade auctions and truck weight fees or eliminating what they see as excess Caltrans jobs.
Complicating the quest for Republican transportation dollars is a separate push to augment health care revenue, which would also require a two-thirds vote. In calling for a special session, Brown has focused on replacing an expiring tax on managed care organizations, and legislation to accomplish that has emerged.
But a coalition of medical organizations is determined to better reimburse providers who accept Medi-Cal, California’s insurance policy for low-income residents. An unusual labor-hospital coalition has bankrolled a campaign to boost rates, and a similar group of union and medical advocates are pinning their hope to getting the revenue from a higher cigarette tax.
Rest in Peace
On This Day: 1859 – A hot air balloon was used to carry mail for the first time. John Wise left Lafayette, IN, for New York City with 100 letters. He had to land after only 27 miles. 1939 – “The Wizard of Oz” premiered in New York. Judy Garland became famous for the movie’s song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” 1985 – A year-long strike began when 1,400 Geo. A. Hormel and Co. meat packers walked off the job.
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