Capitol Alert AM Newsletter

Strengthening DUI laws + CEQA activists fight back + New SEIU president

Happy Wednesday! Things are picking up in the Capitol halls, and I’m officially back on my 40-oz of coffee a day game.


State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, D-Marina del Rey, today will be joined by families who’ve lost loved ones to fatal DUI crashes as they push for two drinking and driving bills.

Hill’s Senate Bill 545 would require a driver convicted of a DUI to have an ignition interlock device installed in his or her car.

Sound familiar? It kind of is. 545 revitalizes Hill’s original ignition interlock device requirement bill that passed in 2016. That version had its device installation requirement removed during the legislative race to the finish line. Lawmakers at the last-minute voted on an amendment to instead leave it up courts to decide if a restricted license would be more appropriate than an ignition device for first-time offenders not involved in an injury crash.

“You can continue to drive, but you just can’t drive drunk,” Hill said. “We want to go to back to the original bill that was supported by everyone.”

A driver cannot start a car if an ignition interlock device detects a certain blood-alcohol concentration from the person’s breath sample. According to Hill’s office, more than 50,000 have died and 1 million have been injured across California in the last 30 years due to drunk drivers.

A Mothers Against Drunk Driving study found that from 2006 to 2017, ignition interlock devices stopped more than 2.7 million drunk driving attempts.

Burke’s legislation, Assembly Bill 1713, might be a bit more complicated. The assemblywoman wants to lower the drunk-driving blood-alcohol threshold, from 0.08 to 0.05.

Utah passed similar legislation that went into effect in 2018. The American Beverage Institute launched a campaign to fight efforts across the country that would similarly lower the threshold, arguing that it would take consuming slightly more than one drink for a 120-pound woman to hit that limit.

“It’s obvious why drivers with a 0.05 blood-alcohol concentration aren’t significantly impaired. They’ve had relatively little to drink,” the organization outlined. “This makes what is usually considered responsible behavior into a criminal act.”

But Hill, a co-author on Burke’s bill, said the defense’s rebuttal is “absurd.” He said some men could drink four beverages in an hour and barely hit the current .08 limit.

“If I drank four of those I would be passed out under the desk I’m sitting at right now,” Hill argued. “You have to look at the motivation, and when people are in the alcohol industry, the motivation is self interest, it’s money. I think the Legislature’s interest is safety.”

The event is scheduled for 10 a.m. on the East Steps of the Capitol.


The California Environmental Quality Act requires state and local agencies to identify and then avoid significant environmental issues that development projects could create.

But lawmakers and advocacy groups have long argued that the 50-year-old law unfairly prevents construction of new homes throughout a state in a desperate housing crisis. The legal mandate is at the heart of dozens of pending bills, committee hearings, gubernatorial debates and lawsuits.

CEQA advocates are over it. In a letter sent to legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday, more than 100 groups signed off on a desperate urging to protect the regulation and build upon its provisions.

The supporters argue that CEQA encourages sustainable development and is helping California reach climate change goals.

“CEQA plays a vital role in both preserving California’s unparalleled natural resources and protecting the rights of residents to weigh in on the land use decisions that most affect them,” the letter read. “Development interests have long complained about California’s flagship environmental law. Now they are trying to blame CEQA for the state’s housing crisis. However, CEQA did not cause the housing crisis, and weakening CEQA will not solve it. Rather, if implemented properly, CEQA can be an effective tool in helping to address California’s housing problems by encouraging sustainable development.”

Read the letter here.


Bob Schoonover was elected the new president of the Service Employees International Union California on Tuesday. The California union represents more than 700,000 workers. Schoonover previously led SEIU Local 721, which represents 97,000 local government workers in Southern California.

SEIU represents caregivers, janitors, security officers, nurses, healthcare and social workers.

SEIU members inspire me every day with their commitment to justice, equity, and opportunity for every person in our state to achieve the California Dream whether they are black, white, or brown,” Schoonover said. “I’m proud to lead an organization that empowers diverse voices, takes on the fights that matter to our children’s future and creates opportunities for labor union members to lift up all working people.”

For your radar — Wandering around the Capitol halls today to “give consumers a voice on privacy” will be ... wait for it ... mimes.

Dressed as “recognizable television mascots of the state’s largest insurance companies,” the troupe is an attempt by the Consumer Watchdog group to demonstrate the effects of Assemblyman Tom Daly’s proposed changes to the California Consumer Privacy Act. The Anaheim Democrat’s Assembly Bill 981 is up for a vote in the chamber’s Committee on Insurance today, and the proposal exempts insurance institutions, agents, and support organizations from the CCPA.

Consumer Watchdog said the bill is a “deception of Orwellian proportions” and the mimes will be a reflection of privacy invasion.



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Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.