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The California Bills Signed (And Vetoed) In The 2022 Legislative Session

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After eight months, California’s legislative session came to a close on Sept. 1 with a final flurry of frantic activity. Lawmakers rushed to pass hundreds of remaining bills before the clock struck midnight on Aug. 31. For a select few measures, with urgency clauses that allow them to take effect immediately upon the governor’s signature, the votes stretched into the wee hours the next day.

High-profile measures that went to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom aim to establish California as a progressive leader on abortion access, on measures to counter climate change and on transgender health care for minors. These votes took place as campaigns ramp up for 100 of the 120 seats in the Legislature. On several bills, the governor not only signaled his support, but lobbied lawmakers to approve them.

Not every contentious proposal made it through the gantlet: Bills to restrict bail costs, to allow legislative staff to unionize, and to preserve California’s concealed-carry gun limits all went down to defeat in the final hours. And a bill that would have allowed teenagers to get vaccines without parental permission was pulled without a vote.

Newsom had until Sept. 30 to either sign or veto the bills that did pass — and his choices will likely be more closely watched than ever as speculation builds about whether he is positioning himself to run for president.

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Here are some of the interesting and consequential bills that CalMatters is tracking — bookmark this page and keep checking back as we update the fate of each:

Boosting paid family leave

What the bill does

SB 951 by Los Angeles Democratic Sen. Maria Elena Durazo increases payments to workers from the state’s disability and paid family leave programs. Starting in 2025, workers who earn less than about $57,000 a year would be paid 90% of their regular wages, an increase from the current 70%. Other workers also would get a boost, receiving 70% instead of 60% of their wages. The bill would offset some of these costs by removing a cap on workers’ contributions to the program, which currently shields earnings above $145,600.

Who supports it

Groups supporting workers’ rights, child and maternal health, gender equity, retirees, and benefits for low-income Californians are pushing for the bill.

Who opposes it

No one officially. Last year, Newsom vetoed a similar bill over the costs, but his administration’s been silent on this year’s version. The Department of Finance in August declined to take a position.

Why it matters

Supporters say few low-income workers can afford the 30% to 40% pay cut to take time off for a disability or to care for a new child or sick family member. From 2017 to 2019, leave claims by workers making less than $20,000 a year declined while they rose for all other workers — increasing the most for those making $100,000 and above, according to the Employment Development Department. And under current law, lower-earning workers contribute a greater share of their paychecks to the program than higher earners because of the cap on taxing incomes above $145,600. More immediately, without this bill the current amount of benefits is set to expire and would return to 55% of a worker’s wages in January.

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Governor's call

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 30, the last day of his decisions. “California created the first Paid Family Leave program in the nation 20 years ago, and today we’re taking an important step to ensure more low-wage workers, many of them women and people of color, can access the time off they’ve earned while still providing for their family,” he said in a statement.

 Jeanne Kuang

Limit enforcement of jaywalking

AB 2147, The Freedom to Walk Act, would allow law enforcement officers to stop a pedestrian for jaywalking only when “a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision.” The Legislature passed, but Newsom vetoed, a similar bill last year that would have repealed the state’s jaywalking laws and prohibited fines until Jan. 1, 2029.

Assemblymember Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat and the bill’s author, is hopeful this version of the legislation meets Newsom’s objections.

Who supports it

The California Bicycle Coalition, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and other groups say the bill will prevent racially biased enforcement while still keeping pedestrians safe.

Who opposes it

The California District Attorneys Association and other groups say the bill will endanger pedestrians and unnecessarily tie the hands of law enforcement.

Why it matters

Last year, pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. hit a four-decade high, and California recorded the highest number of any state. At the same time, local law enforcement agencies in California write thousands of jaywalking tickets every year, which studies find disproportionately impact people of color.

Governor's call

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 30 among his final decisions.

Ariel Gans

Disciplinary action for COVID disinformation

What the bill does

AB 2098 would make it easier for the Medical Board of California to punish doctors who deliberately spread false information about COVID-19, vaccines and treatments. The bill, authored by Cupertino Democrat Evan Low, would classify disinformation as “unprofessional conduct,” allowing the board to take action. Discipline could include a public reprimand, probation, suspension, or license revocation.

Who supports it

The bill is supported by doctor groups including the California Medical Association, the California chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Emergency Physicians. The groups argue that COVID disinformation is dangerous and undermines public health efforts.

Who opposes it

Some individual doctors and groups like A Voice for Choice Advocacy argue that the bill infringes on doctors’ free speech and that physicians should be allowed to share their professional opinions without fear of repercussions.

Why it matters

The COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing and the virus has killed more than 94,000 people in California. COVID disinformation has been linked to vaccine hesitancy and in some cases has popularized unproven treatments. Since early in the pandemic, California has dealt with its share of doctors who have made false claims about the virus. Disinformation can have serious consequences. For example, last year the nations’ poison control centers saw a spike in calls after people reported taking ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug for animals, to cure COVID-19 after being persuaded by false information shared by influential people on the internet.

Governor's call

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 30, among his final decisions. In a signing statement, he sought to make clear that the measure “does not apply to any speech outside of discussions directly related to COVID-19 treatment within a direct physician patient relationship.”

“I am signing this bill because it is narrowly tailored to apply only to those egregious instances in which a licensee is acting with malicious intent or clearly deviating from the required standard of care while interacting directly with a patient under their care,” he added.

Ana B. Ibarra

Introducing rap lyrics at trial 

What the bill does

AB 2799 would require prosecutors who want to use “creative expressions” as evidence of a crime to hold a pretrial hearing away from the jury to prove that rap lyrics or other artistic expression are relevant to the case. The bill by Democratic Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles would require judges to balance the value of the evidence with the “undue prejudice” and racial bias possible when that evidence is presented to a jury.

Who supports it

The bill has enjoyed broad support as it sailed unopposed through both houses. The California Attorneys for Criminal Justice cited the 2019 book “Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America,” which they say proves that prosecutors use rap lyrics and other forms of expression to imply a defendant’s guilt, They contend such usage plays on a jury’s racial bias and a belief that what someone said in a song is also a true accounting of the crime with which they’re charged.

Who opposes it

There’s no official opposition to the bill, though the original version from Jones-Sawyer only called for a judge to instruct the jury to treat artistic expressions with “caution and close scrutiny.” A revised version from the Senate calls for an entirely separate hearing, away from the jury.

Why it matters

This bill is about rap lyrics and the book “Rap on Trial.” In one study mentioned in the book and by California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, two groups of people were read identical lyrics. One group was told they were from a country song, the other was told they were from rap. Participants rated the lyrics they were told was rap as more offensive and more likely to be true to life. In 2021, a Contra Costa man was convicted of murder after an expert prosecution witness testified that the man’s repeating of rap lyrics from popular songs was a confession to his own alleged crimes. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Governor's call

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 30, the last day to act. The governor’s Twitter account said the bill makes California the “1st state to ensure creative content — like lyrics & music videos — can’t be used against artists in court without judicial review.”

Fewer remedial courses at community colleges

What the bill does

Assembly Bill 1705 continues California’s efforts to ensure more community college students enroll in classes required to transfer to a UC or Cal State campus. The bill, by Democratic Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin of Camarillo, would order community colleges to enroll most students in a transfer-level math and English course if their program requires those subjects. It would exempt short-term credentials that have industry-specific math requirements and adult programs that don’t require a math or English course (think: basic office software or fire-resilient landscaping), among other carve-outs.

Who supports it

Pretty much everyone but faculty. The bill received not a single dissenting vote from lawmakers. Its champions include the Chancellor’s Office of the California Community Colleges system, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, various think tanks and a few individual community colleges.

Who opposes it

Faculty unions, associations and the academic senate, plus Mt. San Antonio College, who fault it for being too prescriptive. Faculty groups also say the bill comes with no additional funding to hire more tutors who work alongside faculty to help students during class and give faculty more training.

Why it matters

Until a few years ago, most community college students had to take remedial math and English. For many, their goal was to eventually transfer, so remedial courses were a key hurdle. Over time research chipped away at that logic: Students with high school grades who enrolled directly into transfer-level math and English courses were likelier to pass the courses in a year than if they took a remedial class first. Following a 2017 change in the law, most students started taking gateway courses to eventually get into a UC or CSU, but still thousands — 20% of first-time students — continue to take these remedial courses. In almost all cases, campuses couldn’t justify their policy of requiring that.

Governor's call

Newsom signed the bill and several other higher education proposals on Sept. 30, his last day to act. “California is increasing resources, adding services, and advancing equity to boost graduation and transfer rates throughout our higher education systems,” he said in a statement.

Mikhail Zinshteyn

Protecting transgender youth

What the bill does

SB 107 would protect from prosecution patients who travel to California for what supporters call gender-affirming care and doctors who provide that care. If signed, the bill would make California a refuge for minors seeking gender-affirming care by prohibiting the removal of a child from their parent or guardian because that parent allowed their child to receive gender-affirming care. It also bans California from complying with out-of-state subpoenas seeking medical information related to gender-affirming care.

Who supports it

The bill’s supporters list is largely populated by civil rights groups and city governments. They and bill author Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, say that California has a responsibility to provide a safe environment for transgender youth and their families to get gender-affirming care given a recent rise in legislation in other states that would restrict access. They also argue that access to this care lowers suicide rates among transgender youth.

Who opposes it

The opposition is led by the California Family Council, which argues that gender-affirming care is not an agreed-upon treatment for transgender children. The council also says that children often misunderstand their gender identity and are likely to regret their decision to get irreversible treatments such as hormone replacement therapy and gender-affirming surgery.

Why it matters

According to a survey by The Trevor Project, affirming gender identity among transgender and nonbinary youth is consistently associated with lower rates of attempted suicide. The bill responds to a recent national wave of legislation that aims to restrict access to gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth.

Governor's call

Newsom signed the bill Sept. 29. “States across the country are passing laws to demonize the transgender community, especially transgender youth and their parents,” he said in a signing statement. “With the signing of this bill, California will ensure these kids and their families can seek and obtain the medical and mental health care they need.”

Ariel Gans

Clearing criminal records

What the bill does

SB 731 would, as of July 1, expand criminal record relief for all felonies, not just jailable felonies, if an individual is no longer serving a probationary sentence, not currently involved in another case, and two years have elapsed. It would exclude crimes requiring the offender to register as a sex offender. Criminal records must be disclosed to school districts, which can use those records for deciding teacher credentialing or employment.

Who supports it

A long list of criminal justice reform and rehabilitation organizations are supporting the bill, including Californians for Safety and Justice, who sponsored it. Supporters say that criminal records are serious barriers to the successful reentry of formerly incarcerated individuals to society. These barriers appear when, for example, individuals look for housing, pursue careers in education or healthcare, want to coach a sports team, adopt a child or care for their grandparent. Supporters say poor and Black and Latino residents are disproportionately affected.

Who opposes it

Law enforcement and medical groups make up the majority of the bill’s opponents, including the Peace Officers Research Association of California. It argues that dismissing records for violent criminals will reduce deterrents for repeat offenders and jeopardize public safety. The group says it would have supported the bill if it excluded violent criminals.

Why it matters

Nearly one in three adults in California have a past arrest or conviction on their record, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. While many cases are never prosecuted, these incidents remain on an individual’s record until they are 100 years old in California. These records, when they appear in background checks, can block access to employment and housing, which are primary factors driving recidivism, costing California $20 billion annually.

Governor's call

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 29.

Ariel Gans

Cell fee to fund 988 crisis hotline

By Jocelyn Wiener

What the bill does

AB 988 would raise funds to support call centers and mobile crisis teams associated with the new three-digit federal mental health crisis hotline, also 988. The bill would attach a fee to cell phone lines.That fee has been lowered significantly in negotiations with the telecommunications industry, which in turn has dropped its opposition.

Who supports it

The Steinberg Institute and The Kennedy Forum, co-sponsors of the bill, point to a rise in mental health needs, which has been further aggravated by the pandemic. They say the fee is an important way to make sure the services associated with the hotline are adequately funded.

Who opposes it

The California Association of Health Plans is opposing the bill, saying amendments to it have created a broad new mandate on insurers without a chance for stakeholders to weigh in. County mental health directors and the union that represents county mental health employees called for the bill to be amended, saying they want private insurers to pitch in more, and that they fear implementation may be patchy and variable among counties without sufficient funding.

Why it matters

In July, the new federal 988 number debuted in California and across the country. The number, billed as an alternative to 911, is intended to make it easier for people experiencing mental health emergencies to tap into the state’s network of National Suicide Prevention Lifeline call centers. But to build out the system as envisioned, including providing mobile crisis response, proponents of the cell phone fee say the state needs ongoing funding.

Governor's call

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 29, but directed his administration to draft “cleanup language” in the governor’s budget next year because the use of the revenue is “unduly restricted.”

“This creates considerable confusion about how certain services will be financed, and could severely limit the full potential of the behavioral health crisis response promised by the bill,” he said in a signing statement.

Jocelyn Wiener

More approved by Newsom

Vetoed by Newsom

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