The last day of the California legislature usually brings with it a flurry of last-minute votes – and while things were a little different this year, some members voted remotely and "spoke up" on Zoom, the rush the buzzer stayed the same.
However, online legislation has not been without its problems. Republican lawmakers were quarantined last week after a Republican senator tested positive for COVID-19 and confirmed that he had been in close contact with several of his caucus colleagues while he was potentially infectious and they were then with others in turn been in contact. Democratic lawmakers continued to attend meetings in person, which created friction. On Monday, Republicans accused the majority of imposing speaking restrictions and even once muting their zoom microphones.
Eventually, both sides reached a compromise on how to continue the debates, which Capitol Radio reports lasted until almost the end of the night when the voices arrived when the clock tipped from midnight on the 31st to the early hours of the morning September 1. Republicans briefly complained that it was no longer the deadline, but the Senate eventually passed the bills by 1 a.m.
By the time lawmakers signed off for the night, they had handed over around 100 individual bills, many (if not all) of which are now being forwarded to Governor Newsom for signature. Here are some of the big things that have moved on.
AB 2257 – Update of the AB 5 Freelance Law
When California's Gig Worker Law was passed last year, some professionals complained that it was too broad and failed to take into account the differences between independent workers in different industries. AB 2257 provides a significant update to this law, exempting a wide range of workers, including journalists, real estate agents and artists, from being reclassified.
SB 855 – Insurers need to deal with mental health and substance abuse treatment
Regarded as one of the toughest mental health equality laws in the country, SB 855 would expand the mandate that health insurance covers treatments for addiction and mental illness and revise the reasons an insurance company can refuse claims for these treatments.
AB 3088 – Pandemic Freeze
AB 3088, a hotly watched and controversial bill, extends the existing freeze on evictions of people unable to pay rent due to financial difficulties directly linked to COVID-19. Under AB 3088, tenant protection now applies until January 31, 2021, but with a few updates. Now tenants are required to submit documents swearing that their inability to pay rent is pandemic-linked, under penalty of perjury, and must pay at least 25 percent of their pre-pandemic rent each month starting September 2. Evictions for other than other reasons – Payment of the rent can be resumed as usual. Mom and pop landlords will receive their own new foreclosure protection. Governor Newsom signed the bill on Monday evening.
SB 1447 – Small Business Tax Credit
This bill provides up to $ 100,000 in tax credits for qualified small businesses in the state hiring during the pandemic. For each new full-time employee, the company can receive up to $ 1,000 in credit. California lawmakers who support the bill say they designed it to provide support to local businesses that were unable to secure PPP funding.
SB 275 – Set up PSA stocks
This is to ensure that key workers have access to personal protective equipment such as masks when needed, including the establishment of government and private inventory. It would mandate that the State Department of Public Health and Office of Emergency Services create and maintain a supply of PPDs that could equip vital labor for 90 days in the event of a future health emergency. In the future, employers in the healthcare sector would also have to build up their own 45-day inventory.
Police reform & criminal justice
AB 1506 – State investigation into police shootings
This bill, championed by Democratic MP Kevin McCarty, has been in the works for a long time and is designed to add added confidence and transparency to law enforcement investigations into the shooting of civilians. It allows local authorities to hand over management of the investigation to the state rather than relying on the officer's colleagues and local prosecutors to get the job done.
AB 1196 – Choke Hold Ban
AB 1196 requires all California law enforcement agencies to update their use of violence standards to prohibit suspects from using choke holds, or what is known as carotid restraint. California lawmakers voted to ban the use of "any defense tactic that involves pressure on the sides of a person's neck that is at significant risk of restricting blood flow."
AB 1299 – Working papers for problem cops
This California bill requires all state law enforcement agencies to report to the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission if an offer is made or the force is removed from office due to a "grave complaint, indictment, or investigation." This will be noted in the official's standing record and will be made available if another agency wishes to hire this official in the future.
AB 2147 – Erasure records for nonviolent offenders who volunteer to fight forest fires
California's response to the ever-growing threat of forest fires has relied heavily on putting inmates on as volunteer firefighters, although many who do the dangerous work receive little compensation and are not even allowed to seek employment as firefighters after their sentences are completed because you still have a criminal record. AB 2147 provides a way to have convictions overturned for certain crimes if the convicted person is on fire service while in custody.
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