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Racial Equity, Coronavirus, Homelessness Bills Advance To California Assembly Floor

The California Capitol in Sacramento on March 31, 2020.
Andrew Nixon/CPR
The California Capitol in Sacramento on March 31, 2020.

California lawmakers are moving forward with bills to tackle coronavirus, homelessness and racial inequities in the state.

Those three big topics make up just a portion of the roughly 150 bills approved by the powerful Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, including a $2 billion homelessness package, stricter rules for workplace safety in hospitals and agriculture, and a coronavirus relief bill for struggling homeowners.

Committee Chairwoman Lorena Gonzales, D-San Diego, said despite everything going on, the approved batch still reflects California’s values: “Tackling homelessness and housing shortage, protecting our environment, seeking to correct not just decades, but centuries of systematic racism and injustice, and protecting our state’s workforce and workers.”

The committee approved legislation to tighten safety standards at jails and prisons, as well as for workers at hospitals and in agriculture.

A proposal from Assemblywoman Monique Limon, D-Santa Barbara, would allow struggling homeowners to seek forbearance on their mortgage until six months after the crisis. It would also help renters, vehicle owners and other debtors to postpone payments without immediate fear of repossession.

Another approved bill would require increased reporting of deaths in skilled nursing facilitiesduring an emergency due to communicable disease. More than 40% of Californians who have died due to COVID-19 have been nursing home residents.

The Appropriations Committee passed a $2 billion package to address homelessness, though whether the measure actually ends up getting that funding is still in question as lawmakers wrestle with how to tackle a $54 billion deficit.

Also approved were a handful of measures touted by black lawmakers this week as potential ways to address systemic inequality, including a reparations task force, parole reforms and a proposed constitutional amendment to reinstate affirmative action policies.

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