Four things to watch for in the Legislature in August
August is sure to be a busy month in Sacramento, as legislators fight to get their priorities passed before the legislative session ends on August 31.
While a large number of bills will be debated, there are four things to watch for:
With the political backing of new polling, Senate Bill 32 — which would extend and increase the state’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals — is sure to reappear.
Not only is it a legacy project for the termed-out Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills — who authored the 2006 measure that this bill would extend — but it is backed by both Democratic leaders, Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon.
“A clear majority of Californians strongly support our state’s climate policies and expect their elected leaders to build on our progress battling climate change and air pollution while making investments in clean energy across our state,” de Leon said in a statement on Wednesday. “This is why the Legislature should extend our climate targets in statute by passing Senate Bill 32.”
Republicans are opposed to the measure, which leaves the power to a handful of moderate, pro-business Democrats. The bill passed the Senate in 2015, but was defeated on the Assembly floor and then granted reconsideration.
An interesting data point: 15 Assembly members didn’t vote — which is a way of voting “no” without any accountability.
The Legislature has been in a special session on transportation since last summer to come up with a funding plan to fix the state’s crumbling roads — but with little headway. Gov. Jerry Brown estimates there are almost $6 billion worth of unfunded repairs throughout the state each year.
The dispute is largely between Democrats who have proposed additional revenues (taxes) and Republicans who believe new taxes aren’t necessary as the money already exists but has been redirected to stop budget shortfalls in other areas.
Rumor has it that Democrats will propose what could be a massive package including new revenue, like a gas tax hike, sometime next month — although, since there’s a special session, it could be introduced after the regular session ends.
Republicans are unlikely to budge, but it may not matter what they want. Republicans are in danger of ceding a supermajority to the Democrats in November. If that happens, Democrats would be able to approve new revenues without Republican support.
Of course, the required two-thirds majority wouldn’t leave much room for defections from moderate Democrats.
Overtime for farmworkers
While farmworkers do get overtime, it has a much higher threshold than other professions. A revived bill would, over time, bring the threshold in line with other professions. You may remember that this bill was defeated in June, but it has been repackaged into another bill.
Proponents argue that farmworkers shouldn’t be exempt from the same overtime and break rules as everyone else. Opponents say farmers can’t afford it, and that an industry dependent on weather and external price setting can’t be regulated the same as other professions.
It’s unclear what would be different when the next vote comes that would make business-friendly Democrats, who sided with Republicans to defeat the measure, change their votes. Election year pressure may sway some vulnerable incumbents.
Of course, the measure was only three votes shy of passage, so proponents may target the seven Assembly members who simply didn’t vote, six of whom are Democrats.
It’s widely reported that the state faces an affordable housing crisis, particularly in urban centers.
Gov. Jerry Brown has been trying to increase affordable housing supply with a plan to reduce regulatory barriers for developers trying to build low-income housing. His ideas have not been embraced by the Legislature and he faces opposition largely from unions and environmentalists.
Meanwhile, Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, still has hopes of putting a $3 billion, low-income housing bond on the November ballot.
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