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2019 California Legislative Recap

Over 2,600 proposals were introduced during the 2019 California legislative session — about 20% more than last year. Of those, 40% (1,037 bills) were sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom, including a $215 billion state budget. The Legislature is now in a four-month intermission, expecting to reconvene on January 6, 2020.

Below are some highlights from the just-ended legislative session, including bills that have already been signed into law or are awaiting action by Gov. Newsom, as of the start of business on Monday, September 23.

Health Care

SB 104 (Budget Trailer Bill) makes individuals between ages 19 and 26 eligible for Medi-Cal, regardless of their immigration status, as long as they meet income and other eligibility requirements. The measure, which went into effect when Gov. Newsom signed it into law on July 9, requires the Department of Health Care Services to maximize federal funds and use state funds as needed in the absence of federal funds.

SB 227 would require the Department of Public Health to conduct periodic inspections of hospitals to review compliance with nurse staffing ratios. Violation of these ratios would result in administrative penalties, including $15,000 for a first violation and $30,000 for each subsequent violation. The bill is pending action by the Governor.

Under AB 962, hospitals that have operating costs of at least $50 million — or half that amount if they are part of a system of hospitals — would be required to submit a report to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) by July 1, 2021, and then updated every year thereafter, detailing their procurement efforts with businesses owned by women, minorities, LGBT individuals, and disabled veterans. These reports would then be posted on OSHPD’s website. A hospital diversity commission would also convene to provide suggestions on how to best increase procurement with diverse suppliers within the hospital industry. The bill is pending action by the Governor.

If SB 24 becomes law, it will be one of the first in the U.S. to require student health centers on all 34 state campuses to offer medical abortions. Supporters of the bill hope to remove the barriers women face when trying to get medical abortions off-campus. The bill is pending action by the Governor.

Gov. Newsom signed SB 276 and SB 714 to prevent doctors from writing fraudulent medical exemptions from vaccinations for school children. The new laws establish state oversight of medical exemptions for the vaccinations required for most California schools and daycare centers. By January 1, 2021, the state will start collecting medical exemptions electronically, but the health department would review them only when a school’s immunization rate drops below 95% or when a doctor writes over five medical exemptions a year (starting in 2020). Additionally, any medical exemptions written by doctors who have faced disciplinary action can be revoked by health department officials.

Employment

Gov. Newsom signed AB 5, the “Gig Bill,” which will change the employment status of one million California workers from “independent contractor” to “employee.” That change will make many of those employees – who tend to work for ride-hailing and app-based technology companies – eligible for benefits including minimum wage, paid sick days, and health insurance. Many of those companies are expected to raise prices in order to pay for added labor costs. Most medical specialists, including doctors, will be exempted from the law as they set their own rates, communicate directly with patients, and make at least twice the minimum wage.

Housing

AB 1482 would limit rent increases of 5% plus inflation and require landlords to provide “just cause” when evicting tenants who have been renting for at least a year. Gov. Newsom has indicated he will sign the bill, which is considered the greatest victory for California renter protections in years. The measure, which exempts units under 15 years old, will sunset after 10 years.

Criminal Justice

Gov. Newsom signed SB 230, requiring California law enforcement agencies to maintain a policy providing guidelines on the use of force — including deescalation techniques and other alternatives to force and specific instruction for when deadly force may be used. Additionally, all use-of-force incidents must be evaluated and reviewed. Working in conjunction with this new law is AB 392, which states that deadly force can be used only when “necessary,” not just when “reasonable.” That measure was signed into law in August.

Pending action by the Governor is a bill intended to speed up rape kit testing. To prevent testing backlogs, SB 22 would require newly collected rape kits to be submitted for testing within 20 days and actually tested within 120 days.

Under current law, only immediate family members and law enforcement can request a gun violence restraining order against a person who they believe is a danger to themselves or others. If the Governor signs AB 61 into law, employers, coworkers, schoolteachers, and employees would be able to request a restraining order as well.

AB 32 would ban the use of private for-profit prisons and detention centers in California. The bill, which is pending action by the Governor, would prohibit the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) from entering into or renewing contracts with private for-profit prisons after January 1, 2020, and eliminates their use by January 1, 2028.

Education

Widely known as the “Fair Pay to Play” bill, SB 206 could potentially revolutionize collegiate athletics. Under the bill, student-athletes at all four-year colleges in California would be allowed to sign endorsement deals and receive compensation for the use of their names, images, or likenesses. The bill was approved by the Senate and the Assembly without any opposition and is pending action by the Governor.

AB 1505 would allow school districts to consider the impact on the community and neighborhood schools when reviewing applications for new or expanded charter schools. The bill would require teachers at California’s 1,300 charter schools to be credentialed and establishes a two-year waiting period on non-classroom based charter schools. The bill is pending action by the Governor.

Environment

SB 1 attempts to offset any attempts to weaken federal environmental laws in California by replacing existing federal environmental regulations — for example, the Clean Power Plan, Endangered Species Act, etc. – with a state alternative. The bill, which is backed by environmental groups despite concerns about creating two sets of environmental standards, is pending action by the Governor.

While electric utilities like PG&E already serve in practice as “providers of last resort” in the areas they serve, SB 520 would enshrine this in California law. Supporters say the bill will provide a safety net amid the rapid expansion of retail electric service options for consumers, while critics say it could constrain local governments’ ability to operate municipal utilities. The bill is pending action by the Governor.

If AB 44 is signed by Gov. Newson (which he said he will in a tweet), California will be the first in the nation to ban the creation of new fur products. Anti-fur advocates support the ban on killing such animals as mink, rabbit, and coyote for their fur, but opponents argue it would make California a “nanny state” and would be disrespectful to Native Americans, whose cultures value fur. The bill is pending action by the Governor.