Signing bills is like 'mini-Ph.D.' for Jerry Brown
With the end-of-session rush over and the Legislature out of town, focus in Sacramento now shifts to Gov. Jerry Brown. The fourth-term Democrat has 789 bills to consider this month, according to his office. He will sign Senate Bill 32, landmark legislation requiring California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. But what of dogs in cars, taxes on tampons and all-gender bathrooms? Here’s a look at bills we’re watching and how Brown might approach them by his Sept. 30 deadline.
Assembly Bill 1561 (Assemblywomen Christina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, and Ling-Ling Chang, R-Diamond Bar): Eliminates sales tax on feminine hygiene products such as tampons, pads, menstrual cups and menstrual sponges.
Analysis: Brown tends to cast a skeptical eye on legislation that costs the state money, and this measure would reduce state general fund revenue by about $10 million in the 2016-17 budget year. On the other hand, the bill enjoyed bipartisan support in the Legislature and passed both houses without dissent.
Assembly Bill 717 (Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego): Exempts diapers for infants and toddlers from state sales taxes.
Analysis: The measure passed both houses without opposition, after similar legislation more than a decade ago failed to make it to the governor. The measure would result in a state and local revenue loss of about $35 million annually, according to a legislative analysis, and Brown could choose a narrower bill, Assembly Bill 492, instead.
Assembly Bill 492 (Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, and Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles): Provides a $50 per-child monthly diaper-buying stipend to parents receiving subsidized child care as part of their participation in a welfare-to-work program.
Analysis: This bill would provide a more targeted benefit to low-income people buying diapers than Assembly Bill 717, without the broader tax elimination. The measure would cost the Department of Social Services about $14 million to $18 million annually, according to a legislative analysis.
Senate Bill 443 (Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles): Requires law enforcement agencies to obtain convictions before keeping property taken during criminal investigations under a process known as civil asset forfeiture.
Analysis: The bill is a product of a deal struck by lawmakers and law enforcement after law enforcement groups lobbied against such a measure last year. The bill Brown will consider is a scaled-back version, removing most opposition. It includes an exception for cash seizures in excess of $40,000.
Senate Bill 1322 (Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles): Prohibits arresting or charging people under the age of 18 for prostitution or loitering with the intent to commit prostitution.
Analysis: The legislation is part of a shift in how lawmakers view commercial sex, seeing minors as victims who should be offered services, not arrested. Law enforcement groups opposed the bill, and it narrowly passed in the Legislature.
Senate bill 1129 (Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel): Removes mandatory minimum jail sentences for repeat prostitution offenses.
Analysis: Monning argued a “tough-on-crime” approach to prostitution does not deter prostitution and discourages victims of human trafficking from participating in diversion and drug treatment programs that might reduce their jail time. Brown, the proponent of a ballot measure to make certain nonviolent felons eligible for early parole, has made a major push for rehabilitation.
Assembly Bill 2466 (Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego): Allows convicted felons who are not in prison or on parole to vote.
Analysis: The California Constitution prohibits people who are in prison or on parole for a felony from voting. But under the prison realignment legislation Brown signed in 2011, some offenders now serve sentences in county jails instead. Weber’s bill was prompted by a 2014 lawsuit on behalf of low-level felons sentenced to county jurisdictions, and Secretary of State Alex Padilla dropped the state’s appeal of the case last year. Reminiscent of arguments Brown has made on different public safety issues, Padilla cited the need to re-engage inmates in society to reduce recidivism.
Senate Bill 813 (Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino): Removes statute of limitations for rape allegations.
Analysis: Current law generally requires charges to be brought within 10 years of a sexual assault, though victims of sex crimes that occurred when they were children have until they turn 40. Parsing Brown’s past decisions shows a complex approach to statutes of limitations. He has vetoed consecutive measures that would have allowed more time to sue organizations for childhood sex abuse, reflecting at length in one veto message on the concept of justice and writing in another that statutes of limitations reflect “a matter of fundamental fairness.” But those dealt with civil penalties. He signed a measure allowing more than an additional decade for victims to seek criminal charges against alleged childhood assailants.
Assembly Bill 2888 (Assemblymen Evan Low, D-Campbell, and Bill Dodd, D-Napa): Mandates prison sentences for certain sex crimes in which the victim was unconscious or incapable of giving consent due to intoxication.
Analysis: The bill is fallout from a nationally watched sexual assault case involving a former Stanford University swimmer who received a six-month jail sentence after penetrating an unconscious woman. Assembly Bill 2888 was supported in the Legislature even by some liberal Democrats who typically support reducing criminal penalties.
Assembly Bill 797 (Assemblymen Marc Steinorth, R-Rancho Cucamonga, and Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles): Lets Californians smash car windows to free animals from vehicles that are too hot or cold without facing a civil lawsuit, as long as there is no other way to free the animal and they have contacted law enforcement.
Analysis: The bill was supported by the Humane Society of the United States, among other animal groups. But it was opposed by some dog clubs that warned of overzealous liberators. It is unclear how Brown will act, while it is likely that one of his own two dogs – both of them with social media accounts – will tweet about it.
Senate Bill 1182 (Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Manteca): Makes it a felony to possess date-rape drugs with the intent to commit a sexual assault.
Analysis: Brown vetoed a similar bill last year, but his reason for doing so was broader than any one piece of legislation. In a veto message accompanying nine criminal justice measures last year, Brown complained about the size of California’s criminal code and criticized “the multiplication and particularization of criminal behavior creates increasing complexity without commensurate benefit.” He wrote, “Before we keep going down this road, I think we should pause and reflect on how our system of criminal justice could be made more human, more just and more cost-effective.” Brown now has a criminal justice measure of his own on the November ballot, and rape cases have drawn an increasing amount of public attention in the last year.
Senate Bill 1143 (Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco): Restricts the use of room confinement for juvenile inmates.
Analysis: The bill passed the Legislature without opposition, with proponents arguing that extended room confinement prevents juvenile offenders from accessing classroom and rehabilitative programs. Brown has often spoken about his desire to improve rehabilitation for inmates.
Assembly Bill 1494 (Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Greenbrae): Allows voters to “voluntarily disclose” how they voted.
Analysis: The legislation would modify current law preventing marked ballots from being shown to anyone else. If signed, it would become legal for a voter to snap a photograph of his or her ballot – as many already do.
Assembly Bill 450 (Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento): Lets cities and counties charge more for licenses to carry concealed firearms by eliminating a $100 limit and requiring local law enforcement to collect those fees.
Analysis: Gun control bills tend to fare well in Sacramento, with Brown earlier this year authorizing measures to regulate ammunition and bolster an assault weapons ban as he signed about half of a package of gun measures. Still, Brown is often hesitant to increase taxes and fees.
Assembly Bill 1046 (Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo): Requires people convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.
Analysis: While Brown has not spoken on this bill, the cost of overseeing the program – about $1 million to get going and then around $2.4 million annually, according to an Assembly analysis – could give pause to the fiscally cautious governor.
Senate Bill 465 (Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo): Gets more information to the Contractors State License Board on criminal records or past violations of builders.
Analysis: It took over a year to send Brown legislation reacting to the fatal collapse in 2015 of a balcony in Berkeley, with the measure initially stalling out. The updated measure has no formal opposition, with amendments winning over construction industry opponents.
Senate Bill 1383 (Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens) Compels the Air Resources Board to limit “short-lived climate” pollutants such as methane from sources that include dairies and landfills.
Analysis: It’s not a question of “if” but “when” the climate-focused Brown will sign this measure. He was calling members to drum up support on the session’s final night before the measure narrowly cleared the Assembly.
Assembly Bill 1613/Senate Bill 859 (Committee on Budget) Allocates $900 million from cap-and-trade revenue.
Analysis: Other climate bills Brown will certainly sign, since they grew out of a deal with legislators. Before voting to extend California’s climate goals, some legislators said they wanted to be sure they would see direct benefits to their districts. Much of the money in this bill would flow to low-income communities, reflecting the Legislature’s efforts to ensure climate programs don’t disproportionately benefit wealthy Californians. Of that, $140 million for heavily polluted communities would be available if Brown signs Assembly Bill 2722 to create the “Transformative Climate Communities Program.” On a related note, Assembly Bill 1550 – also on Brown’s desk – would direct cap-and-trade money to poor communities if the spending deal gets ratified.
Senate Bill 1333 (Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego): Bans smoking or disposing cigar and cigarettes butts in state parks and beaches.
Analysis: Public health advocates have already gotten big assists from the governor on tobacco control this year, with Brown signing measures to boost the smoking age to 21 and to more tightly regulate e-cigarettes. He also signed legislation last year banning baseball players from chewing tobacco during games at California’s major-league ballparks. He has not directly addressed SB 1333.
Assembly Bill 1066 (Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego) Offers extra pay to farm laborers working more than 40 hours in a week or eight hours in a day, changing the threshold of 10 hours a day or 60 hours a week.
Analysis: Supporters invoked history, arguing farmworkers have faced exploitation and poverty for decades. Brown has history of his own on this issue. He was an ally of farm laborer champion Cesar Chavez during his first stint in office, signing the landmark Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975. But he hasn’t said whether he would sign AB 1066, and during his current tenure has rebuffed the Chavez-founded United Farm Workers Union, the bill’s chief advocate, vetoing legislation to help resolve labor disputes.
Assembly Bill 2844 (Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica) Requires companies seeking state contracts to ensure they aren’t violating nondiscrimination laws, including with their policies toward Israel.
Analysis: Global politics inform this Legislative Jewish Caucus priority bill targeting the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” movement, which seeks to punish Israel for its treatment of Palestinians by refusing to do business with the country. Jewish legislators discussed the bill with Brown but the governor has given no public indication of his stance.
Senate Bill 654 (Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson): Offers up to six weeks of protected unpaid parental leave to employees of businesses with between 20 and 49 employees.
Analysis: Brown vetoed a family leave bill last year that would have expanded the list of relatives workers could take time off to care for. That measure, like SB 654, incurred significant opposition from business groups and earned the California Chamber of Commerce’s “job killer” tag, though Brown wrote in his veto message that he was concerned about a disparity between federal and state law and said he was open to a more generous policy. Earlier this year he signed legislation boosting the compensation rate from California’s paid family leave program.
Assembly Bill 1732 (Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco): Requires single-user bathrooms to be labeled “all-gender.”
Analysis: The bill comes amid ongoing controversy surrounding the use of bathrooms consistent with a person’s gender or biological sex. Brown in 2014 vetoed gender-equity legislation requiring baby changing stations in both men’s and women’s restrooms, saying the issue should be left to the private sector. But in 2013 he signed a bill letting high school students use the bathrooms or join the sports teams matching their gender identities.
Assembly Bill 1668 (Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier): Allows pharmaceutical companies to make not-yet-fully-approved treatments available to patients with a serious or immediately life-threatening disease.
Analysis: This is a second act for the so-called “right-to-try” legislation, which Brown vetoed last year. In his veto message, Brown said “patients with life-threatening conditions should be able to try experimental drugs” but that proposed changes to federal policies would streamline access to such drugs. Proponents of the bill have said those new regulations, while an improvement, do not go far enough.
Assembly Bill 72 (Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda): Shields patients from large bills when they’re treated by an out-of-network doctor at an in-network hospital.
Analysis: Brown has given no indication of how he’ll act on this bill, a priority of public health advocates and labor that passed with bipartisan support after amendments got the California Medical Association to go neutral. Numerous organizations representing specialists like neurologists and urologists remained opposed.
Assembly Bill 2249 (Assemblymen Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, Adam Gray, D-Merced, and Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals): Bars state parks concessionaires from getting, as a term of their contract, trademarks over names of state park features.
Analysis: Prompted by the outcry over the renaming of Yosemite Park landmarks such as the former Ahwahnee Hotel, this bill rocketed through the Legislature without incurring a single “no” vote. But Brown, who tends to offer fairly nuanced takes on changes to complex legal topics like trademark rights, has not publicly expressed a position.