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Five Bills To Watch At The End Of California’s Legislative Session

Andrew Nixon

California state lawmakers will wrap up their legislative session later this week, after months of debating bills related to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools, law enforcement and just about every other issue facing the Golden State.

The Democratic-held Legislature has passed roughly 300 bills this year and may pass several hundred more in the coming days in a flurry of last-minute activity. Other pieces of legislation have been delayed until next year.

Here are five bills the CapRadio News team is following during the final days of the session:

Senate Bill 2: The most closely watched police reform bill in the wake of George Floyd’s killing and racial justice protests in 2020, Senate Bill 2 would create a process for law enforcement officers to lose their badges if convicted of crimes or some forms of misconduct. In certain circumstances, such as if an officer is convicted of wrongful death, the bill would remove immunity protections, which shield public employees from civil lawsuits. The measure has passed both chambers in the Legislature and as of Tuesday required only one more procedural vote before going to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.

Assembly Bill 9: AB 9 would create a new state workforce to handle wildfire prevention responsibilities, including forest-thinning, prescribed burns and home-hardening. Right now, Cal Fire is largely responsible for handling prevention efforts — in addition to suppressing fires.

“Year after year, even though we have increased our firefighting force and resources, wildfire prevention work has had to take a back seat because our resources have been needed virtually full time to fight fires,” said Democratic Assemblyman Jim Wood, who authored the bill, in a statement.

Experts widely agree that decades of prioritizing fire suppression over forest management resulted in overgrown wildlands primed to burn out of control. To reverse this trend, they advocate for substantially ramping up forest-thinning and prescribed burning. California has entered into an agreement with the federal government to collectively treat 1 million acres of forestland per year — a target they remain well short of.

Senate Bill 742: Following a protest that caused a Los Angeles COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic to shut down earlier this year, pediatrician and state Sen. Richard Pan proposed SB 742. The bill would make it a misdemeanor to intimidate, harass or obstruct patients and workers leaving or entering a vaccine site, punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and six months in jail.

Senate Bill 98: This bill would affirm journalists’ right to attend and cover protests, rallies and other events, even in an area that has been closed by law enforcement. It would prevent police from detaining, arresting or citing news media for failing to disperse. It comes after several California journalists were detained at protests, particularly in Southern California, in 2020.

Already Passed But Awaiting The Governor’s Signature

A pair of housing bills that were a major priority for Senate Democratic leadership is already awaiting the governor’s signature or veto. The bills, part of a housing package put forth by Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, would reduce barriers for new affordable housing by allowing for denser housing like duplexes and multi-units to be built on single-family lots.

Senate Bill 9 would allow homeowners to split their lots and build additional units, including duplexes, on a lot zoned only for single-family housing.

Senate Bill 10 would allow cities to zone for up to 10 housing units per parcel in urban areas or places close to transit, if they choose.

Another bill in the police reform realm, Assembly Bill 333, known as the CRISES Act, would create a pilot program for cities or counties to shift certain emergency response calls from law enforcement to community-based organizations.

State Sen. Sydney Kamlager, a Los Angeles Democrat who authored the bill, has argued that having community members and trained mental health professionals respond to issues involving mental health crises and unhoused individuals would reduce violent conflicts with law enforcement. If signed into law, the bill would provide grants of at least $250,000 to communities to pilot the program.

Delayed Until 2022

Hundreds of bills were delayed until next year under a designation known as a “two-year bill.”

Among them are proposals to decriminalize certain hallucinogenic drugs, ban fossil fuel extraction within a certain distance from homes and develop resilience hubs, or places where community members can gather to escape climate disasters like heat waves and wildfires.

Copyright 2021 CapRadio