Political Solutions End of Session Highlights
The Legislature dispensed with hundreds of bills in the frenetic final week of session, sending a flurry of legislation to the Governor’s desk regulating a wide variety of contentious topics. Several measures advancing to Governor Newsom’s desk are repeats of legislation vetoed by former Governor Jerry Brown.
Some of the high-profile issues include the following:
The Circular Economy and Pollution Reduction Act (AB 1080 and identical SB 54) would impose a comprehensive regulatory scheme on producers, retailers, and wholesalers of single-use packaging. The regulations would require a statewide 75% reduction of the waste generated from single-use packaging and priority single-use products offered for sale, distribution, or importation into the state through source reduction, recycling, or composting by January 1, 2030. Late amendments made significant changes to the bill, expanding the bill to apply to all material types, not just plastic. The bills establish interim recycling targets leading up to 2030 and place civil penalties of up to $50,000 per day for noncompliance.
After intense backdoor conversations that continued through the final hours, neither bill was brought up for a vote on the floor. The bills will carry over to the 2020 session.
Trump Environmental Backstop
Originating as a bold effort to prevent the Trump administration from rolling back protections for the environment and labor, SB 1 by Senate President Toni Atkins, recently reached some roadblocks when Democratic members of Congress, steered by Senator Dianne Feinstein, recently demanded changes to the bill to provide for more flexibility. In a fight over the state’s water, opponents of the bill, including the state’s water contractors, argued it would derail some tentative and delicately negotiated water-sharing agreements supported by the Newsom administration.
Ultimately, the bill passed both houses late Friday night. Atkins acknowledged that she doesn’t know if the governor will sign the measure.
Labeled the “Housing Crisis Act of 2019,” SB 330 by Senator Skinner, would limit many tools local governments use to prevent new housing from getting built. The bill provisionally prohibits cities from imposing a moratorium on new housing construction, disallows “downzoning, “and bans cities from increasing fees during the development approval process. The bill passed both houses of the Legislature and is sitting on the governor’s desk.
Caps on Rent
AB 1482 by Assemblyman Chiu would give California debatably the sturdiest statewide renter protections in the country. After ongoing discussions and some compromises, the bill limits rent increases to 5 % a year plus inflation, with a maximum of 10%. Landlords must also have just-cause eviction. The rent cap and the just cause provisions are subject to exemptions (housing built in the last 15 years, single family residences unless owned by a real estate trust or corporation). The measure does not affect rent limits in local jurisdictions with existing rent control laws. The bill expires automatically in 2030. The bill is on the governor’s desk and he is expected to sign it given his participation in the negotiations.
Gig Economy/Dynamex Decision
In large part, this legislative session was commandeered by legislation limiting the use of contract workers. This week, the Legislature passed the controversial labor bill AB 5, which will force some businesses to reclassify certain contract workers as employees. The bill takes effect Jan. 1, 2020, codifying the 2018 California Supreme Court decision that set the new standards for classification. Labor unions and business groups have fought all year over the bill, as it is labor’s boldest endeavor thus far to secure better wages, workplace standards and expand collective bargaining rights.
Opponents have cautioned the bill will encourage trial lawyers to file frivolous lawsuits against California businesses and have called the bill a “blatant power grab by big labor.”
The bill is expected to have far-reaching implications that resonate across the country. Governor Newsom is expected to sign it.
Privacy/CA Consumer Protection Act (CCPA)
Over the course of the 2019 legislative year, the business community attempted to obtain CCPA-related clarifications necessary for implementation purposes. They were successful on several fronts, working on and passing bills that refine integral definitions to the CCPA – AB 25 (Chau), AB 1355 (Chau), and AB 874 (Irwin). Conversations over the course of the year included negotiations with the original initiative proponent, Alastair MacTaggart and his newly-formed group (Californians for Consumer Privacy), privacy advocacy groups, and labor groups.
The next step in the CCPA process will be awaiting the release of regulations from the Attorney General’s office, which is anticipated to take place this Fall. In the meantime, there are several CCPA-related bills that stalled this year that will need to be dealt with in 2020, including AB 846(Burke/Low/Mullin) Loyalty Rewards.
Two bills have dominated major attention in recent weeks, drawing large crowds of protesters to the state Capitol. SB 714, authored by Senator Pan, and companion measure SB 276, both passed the Legislature and were signed by Governor Newsom this week. Together, both measures severely limit exemptions from state-mandated vaccines. SB 276 alters how doctors offer exemptions that allow unvaccinated children to attend school, and gives the ultimate say to a local public health official instead of a physician.
AB 744 by Assemblywoman Aguiar-Curry would require that health care services, delivered appropriately through telehealth, are reimbursed on the same basis and to the same extent that the health plan or insurer reimburses these services through in-person visits. The bill’s potential is particularly weighty for rural and underserved communities, given its ability to bring specialists directly to those patients through telehealth modalities. The bill passed both houses and now heads to the governor’s desk.