California lawmakers will not create an Election Day holiday this year. Nor will they provide grants to local governments to convert public golf courses into affordable housing, or force health insurers to cover fertility treatments.
All of these proposals fell victim to the seasonal culling of bills known as the backlog. This majestic and secret processled by the Senate and Assembly Appropriations Committees, serves as the final budget review before any legislation that may have a significant cost to the state is sent to the full chamber for a vote.
In fast and furious hearings on Thursday that lasted two hours, the committees went through the fate of nearly 1,000 bills, offering no explanation for their decisions and, in many cases, no formal announcement that a action has been taken.
the results had already been determined in private deliberations. The holding record, among the most opaque practices on Capitol Hill, allows legislative officials not only to shelve overly costly proposals, but also to dispatch controversial ones more discreetly or politically inconvenient, especially in an election year.
About 220 bills were shelved. The bills that passed – more than 700 of them – now face another looming deadline next week to move out of their original homes. If successful, they will move on to the other chamber for further examination.
Here are some of the notable metrics that aren’t moving this session forward:
Five times Assemblyman Evan Low, a Democrat from Campbell, tried to create a November election holiday, closing schools and giving public employees paid time off to vote. And five times the bill has been retained on the waiting file of the Assembly, including again this year.
Assembly Bill 1872 was slightly different from several of its predecessors in that it would have replaced Presidents’ Day with a polling holiday in even-numbered years, rather than simply adding another day off, thus reducing its cost. But with every California voter now receiving a ballot in every election, the urgency of such a plan has diminished significantly.
A separate measure to create a public holiday for June 19, Assembly Bill 1655 by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat from Los Angeles, however, came forward.
If a a powerful interest group swings pretty hard on a bill, they might just kill him. That’s what happened when nearly 80 local, regional and national golf groups, along with several organizations that favor local control over housing development, banded together against MP Cristina Garcia’s proposal. Assembly Bill 1910.
The measure targeted the state’s hundreds of municipal golf courses, many of which are operating with significant financial losses, as prime locations to help the state emerge from its housing shortage. He reportedly offered grants to local governments to convert their golf courses into housing, at least a quarter of which should be affordable for low-income families. The result was not too surprising: everyone wants affordable housing, until he threatens to come to his backyard or the local golf course.
— Manuela Tobias
Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks’ pressure to force health insurers to cover fertility treatmentincluding costly in vitro fertilization, fell short for the third time in four years.
Unlike 17 other states, California does not require health insurers to pay for fertility treatments. A round of in vitro and accompanying drugs can cost up to $20,000, deterring some people from having children and leaving others in exorbitant debt.
Assembly Bill 2029 by Wicks, an Oakland Democrat, faced opposition from health insurance plans and other business groups, who noted the steep price tag: about $715 million that would be presented by employers and health plan enrollees largely in the form of increased premiums.
— Ana B. Ibarra
Assembly Bill 2095 by Assemblyman Ash Kalra, a Democrat from San Jose, was a nation’s first bill it would have required large companies to report a wide range of data about their workforce, including how much they are paid and what benefits they receive. The state could have used this information to provide the public with easy-to-understand metrics of how companies treat their employees and to provide certain benefits to the top performers, such as tax credits.
But the bill has faced fierce opposition from business groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce, which has put it on its list of “job killers” – all of measures against which it lobbies most aggressively each year. The Chamber argued that the data would create unfair comparisons between companies or be taken out of context.
Lawmakers have advanced another workplace transparency proposal on the “job killer” list: Senate Bill 1162 by Senator Monique Limón, a Democrat from Santa Barbara, which would require companies to make public certain salary data, including salary scales in job postings, passed with some amendments, including one that exempted companies from 15 workers or less.
Part-time community college faculty are having a mixed time in Sacramento. A $200 million pending health care fund they defended has the support of the governor. But a bill to match the salaries of part-time community teachers with full-time teachers for similar work levels is dead on hold.
Assembly Bill 1752 by Miguel Santiago, a Democrat from Los Angeles, has reportedly raised community college costs by about hundreds of millions of dollars a year. That the cost is so high speaks to the huge pay gap between part-time teachers – who are usually only paid for the hours they teach, but not for other related work like lesson planning and rating – and their full-time salaried peers.
The majority of community college professors work part-time and earn an average of $20,000 per year. Unions backed the bill while the organization representing community college executives opposed it, arguing that they were already struggling to meet their personnel obligations in a era of declining student enrollment.
“Educators are deeply disappointed,” Claudia Briggs, spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association, said in a text message. “AB 1752 was the right thing to do for part-time students and faculty in a year when the state budget has the resources.”
— Mikhail Zinshteyn
Assembly Bill 2816 by Assemblyman Phil Ting, a Democrat from San Francisco, was supposed to boost California’s flagship program to persuade drivers to swap their gas guzzlers for electric cars. The measure would have ordered the California Air Resources Board to restructure rebates for purchases of zero-emission vehicles so consumers receive more money for ditching cars that used more gasoline. But the proposal failed to garner widespread support among environmental groups.
The fossil fuel industry and the unions that represent its workers have also flexed their considerable muscles on Capitol Hill, helping to kill Senate Bill 953 by Senator Dave Min, a Democrat from Costa Mesa. After a massive oil spill near the coast of Huntington Beach last fall, Min had sought to shut down the three remaining offshore platforms in state waters by forcing California to negotiate an end to their use within the next two years. Even as Democratic leaders plan to phase out oil and gas production in the state over the next few decades, they have been reluctant to take even modest steps to limit drilling more immediately. Min’s bill was further undermined by concerns about potential financial liabilities to taxpayers if the state takes ownership of the platforms.
— Nadia Lopez and Alexei Koseff