Wrapping up on the last day of August, the California Legislature completed its two-year session by sending Governor Jerry Brown more than 800 bills. He now has until September 30 to sign or veto the legislation. We have been and will continue distributing Action Alerts on most of these bills. (You can find the complete list here and below.)
The California Catholic Conference (CCC) begins each session by tracking thousands of bills. Many have been signed, some failed. Here is a look at the significant developments in each of the priority areas regularly tracked by the Conference:
Reverence for Life
One of our high priority bills is AB 1954 (Burke, D-Inglewood). This bill inappropriately permits a patient to go beyond her health plan for any reproductive services without a referral from her health plan doctor. Planned Parenthood is the sponsor of the bill, which bypasses the woman’s physician, jeopardizes her health and creates inordinate and irresponsible costs. This bill is not concerned with women’s safety-- only with abortion clinics’ organizational convenience and reimbursement processes.
AB 1671 (Gomez, D-Los Angeles) seeks to criminalize activity like the “Planned Parenthood/sale of fetal parts” videos. Both the California Catholic Conference (CCC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are opposed to this unwarranted and possibly unconstitutional abridgment of the public’s right to know and freedom of speech. It criminalizes and fines the acts of, and assisting in, the procuring and distributing of such information.
Interestingly enough, AB 2531 (Burke, D-Inglewood) which would have allowed a woman to be paid for donating her eggs for research, did not pass, as many had anticipated. Questions remain as to why the author chose not to bring it up for a final vote on the Assembly floor. Stay tuned on this issue as this same bill may be re-introduced again next session.
A challenge facing the legislature is the lack of programming, early release and high recidivism rates. More than 80 percent of all inmates currently in prison will eventually be paroled to local communities—most within a couple of years of being sent to prison. With these challenges, the legislature has emphasized the need to design and implement effective strategies to reduce recidivism and to redirect resources to crime prevention programs.
Two of our top priority bills are on the Governor’s desk:
- AB 2590 (Weber, D-San Diego), a Catholic Advocacy Day bill, would find and declare that the purpose of sentencing is public safety achieved by adding rehabilitation and restorative justice to the notion of punishment which is now primary directive in the penal code. The California Catholic Conference, along with other faith leaders, co-sponsored AB 2590. The bill will provide a focus on healing victims, families and the community.
- SB 1157 (Mitchell, D-Los Angeles) would protect the rights of families to maintain in-person visits with their loved ones in county jails, juvenile facilities and private prison facilities. The bill would allow counties to install and use video visitation but would prevent them from eliminating in-person visitation. Regular in-person visits have been shown to reduce violence during incarceration, reduce recidivism, increase the chances of securing employment post-release, and facilitate successful reentry.
AB 1066 Gonzales (D-San Diego) would establish the “Phase-In Overtime for Agricultural Workers Act of 2016”, which would make farm workers eligible for overtime pay if they work more than an eight-hour day or 40 hours a week. The bill would create a schedule that would phase in overtime requirements for agricultural workers over the course of four years, from 2017 to 2020. This bill also exempts businesses with less than 25 employees and phases in the provisions over an additional three years. The CCC supports this bill because it is a responsible, step-by-step phased-in solution that will make farm workers eligible for overtime pay, like every other worker in California and the rest of our nation.
SB 3 (Leno, D-San Francisco) which will increase the minimum wage has already been signed by the Governor. A threatened ballot initiative encouraged the the legislature to do take up the issue so that they could have more control of how it was implemented. Minimum wage will reach $15 per hour by January 2023.
SB 23 (Mitchell, D-Los Angeles) was another one of our Catholic Advocacy Day bills which was eventually incorporated into the Budget. The Maximum Family Grant (MFG) had limited the amount of assistance for families they have another child but was finally eliminated after a long and sustained battle. We have been fighting this issue close to six years.
The State EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) passed last year but was implemented in the 2015 tax year. Many more families were able to apply for this benefit when filing taxes. Originally signed into law by President Ronald Reagan after bi-partisan Congressional approval, the EITC will be the subject of a continuing education campaign since many people are \ not aware of the benefit and how to qualify.
There were a number of human trafficking bills introduced this year. Many of them failed to get out of their various committees. Two main bills that the CCC worked on were:
- AB 2498 (Bonta, D-Alameda) would have eliminated the names and addresses and images of victims of human trafficking and their families from the California Public Records Act.
- SB 823 (Block, D-San Diego) would have required sealing arrest and court records for juveniles who are victims of human trafficking.
To assist local communities in preventing and addressing homelessness, a bipartisan coalition of members from the State Senate introduced a strategic and first-of-its kind “No Place like Home” initiative to much fanfare earlier in the year. California has the nation’s largest homeless population while ranking as the sixth largest economy of the world at the same time.
While funding for $400 million in affordable housing programs was included in the State Budget the legislature failed to allocate funding from Proposition 63 – the Mental Health Services Act –to address the state’s homelessness issue. MHSA funding will be a top priority for the upcoming legislative session.
Pre K - College Education
The second half of this legislative session advanced education by expanding access to high quality early childhood education, strengthening California’s teaching profession, creating more postsecondary opportunities and increasing care for those students with greatest needs.
Several legislative measures were successfully incorporated into the state budget. (Many of these ideas were originally proposed as separate bills but were eventually rolled into the State Budget.) Transitional Kindergarten was preserved (which the Governor had proposed eliminating) and early childhood funding will grow by nearly $500 million addiing 8,877 additional slots to full-day State Preschool over four years. A Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Care and Education was also created to develop a plan that improves services for children birth to age 3 and explore how the state can provide preschool for all four-year-olds
To address the shortage of teachers the budget also provided for four‑year integrated teacher credential programs and re-established the California Center on Teaching Careers. Separate legislation which is already law, AB 2248 (Holden, D-Pasadena), will expedite the ability of qualified bilingual teachers from other states to teach in California classrooms. AB 2230 (Chu, D-San Jose), if signed by the Governor, would establish a new standard that qualifies private school teachers as exempt employees with professionally-equitable and financially sustainable salaries responsive to regional economic conditions.
On the collegiate level, AB 1185 (Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles), which has already been signed, will develop a uniform Advance Placement (AP) credit policy for community colleges to help students in receiving and transferring credits.
Finally, SB 1146 (Lara – D-Bell Gardens) is also on the Governor’s desk. While concerned on about some technical wording, the California Catholic Conference removed opposition to SB 1146 before its passage. SB 1146 has been amended to protect access to higher education for California’s financially neediest students who chose to attend a faith-based college or university, while preserving the religious charism and liberties of these institutions. Intrusive reporting requirements for faith-based higher education institutions with Title IX exemptions were removed from the bill. In addition a reasonable timeline is provided for implementation of disclosure provisions that ensure all students have an informed choice about which institution of higher education best serves their needs.
AB 1789 (Santiago, D-Los Angeles), if signed, would inspire continued charitable support that provides school supplies and health-related products to homeless children and homeless youth. AB 1567 will offer homeless students and students who are in foster care priority for enrolling in before- and after-school programs without cost.
Addressing climate change SB 32 (Pavley, D-Agoura Hills) calls for a 40 percent reduction of emissions from 1990 levels by 2030, with no mention of the cap-and-trade system currently being used to ensure compliance. A separate measure, SB 1383 (Lara, D – Bell Gardens), will begin to effectively slow the near-term rate of atmospheric warming with significant reductions in short-lived climate pollutants
Ensuring clean, adequate and affordable water supply, SB 1262 (Pavley, D-Agoura Hills) updates the “Show Me the Water” statutes to better manage water wisely through both times of plenty and scarcity. And SB 552 (Wolk, D-Davis) adds a new tool that allows the State Water Resources Control Board to contract with a third party to provide necessary services to help a failing public water system in a disadvantaged community provide adequate and affordable water.