Dozens of bills impacting cities advance to the Governor’s desk as the legislative session ends

Sep 15, 2021

Several priority bills, such as SB 9 (Atkins), AB 14 (Aguiar-Curry), SB 4 (Gonzalez), and SB 619 (Laird) are awaiting action, along with many other important bills for cities. 

The final night of California's legislative session passed with little fanfare, perhaps in part because lawmakers were capped at a dozen bills each this year. Gov. Gavin Newsom now has until Oct. 10 to sign or veto over 800 bills pending on his desk. City officials can learn more about the nearly 30 priority bills tracked by the League of California Cities during the Legislative Call to Action webinar on Sept. 16 at 10 a.m.

Housing legislation that undermines local decision-making awaiting action

SB 9 (Atkins) and AB 215 (Chiu) passed out of the Legislature, despite stiff opposition from more than 260 member cities and a myriad of other groups. The ‘by right’ or mandatory approval scheme created by SB 9 circumvents an important local government review process that includes extensive public engagement. The bill does not guarantee the construction of affordable housing; it is a sweetheart deal for developers that silences local communities.

AB 215 was amended to remove the proposed mid-cycle regional housing needs progress determination process. However, the author also added language that would institute a three-year statute of limitation for the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to bring action against a city for an alleged violation of certain housing laws. It would also allow HCD to seek outside counsel if the Attorney General elects not to pursue an enforcement action.

Cal Cities argued that state lawmakers should work with local governments to provide the tools and resources to streamline local housing approvals and fund affordable housing rather than pass flawed legislation such as SB 9 and AB 215, Cal Cities is urging the Governor to veto both bills.  

Broadband funding clears last-minute hurdles

Two important broadband bills, AB 14 (Aguiar-Curry) and SB 4 (Gonzalez), are awaiting the Governor’s signature, despite a last-minute push from the California Chamber of Commerce and others to kill SB 4. The bill is an urgency measure, which requires two-thirds approval to pass. This made every vote crucial to its survival. SB 4 initially failed to gain a two-thirds vote, which sent supporters scrambling. 

The two measures make important, separate tweaks to the California Advanced Services Fund surcharge program. These reforms are critical to the long-term success of SB 156, which provided $6 billion for broadband deployment, mostly in unserved and underserved communities. Cal Cities is asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign the two measures.

Brown Act relief bill passes

Brown Act flexibility is top of mind for Cal Cities, its members, and many lawmakers. AB 361 (Rivas, Robert), which would allow cities to continue holding remote, transparent, and publicly accessible meetings during a declared state of emergency, passed. The amended measure is an urgency clause, meaning it would take effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature. The bill would expire for state agencies in January 2022 and for local agencies in January 2024. Cal Cities is advocating for the measure to be signed as soon as possible so cities can begin to implement the procedures laid forth by the legislation.

Unfortunately, AB 339 (Lee), which requires certain jurisdictions to provide in-person and teleconference options for the public to participate in meetings, also passed. While this measure has been amended, it still hinders cities’ ability to hold practical, transparent, and accessible meetings. Moreover, it undercuts the safety-oriented provisions of AB 361 and could have negative impacts for local agency workers. Cal Cities is urging the Governor to veto AB 339.

Important environmental bills enjoy broad support

Although Cal Cities secured a dedicated $60 million in grant funding to implement SB 1383 organic waste regulations, additional time and flexibility are needed. The recently amended SB 619 (Laird) sailed through the Senate with zero no votes. The measure would give local governments an optional pathway to compliance without the fear of penalty for one year. The bill strikes a balance between not delaying statewide progress and not burdening local governments with onerous penalties if they are making a reasonable effort to comply with the regulations.

Cal Cities also supports SB 343 (Allen), which would clarify which materials are suitable for recycling. Due to decades of greenwashing, many consumers wrongly assume that all materials with the word “recyclable” or the “chasing arrows” symbol are recyclable. This contaminates and overwhelms the recycling stream. Under SB 343, these designations would be reserved for materials that are truly recyclable and routinely sold to manufacturers to make new products.

SB 343 ultimately passed despite intense opposition from the American Chemistry Council, the Plastics Industry Association, and others. Cal Cities is urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign both SB 343 and SB 619.

Important revenue bill gets overwhelming support

SB 792 (Glazer) was at risk of stalling, but ultimately passed, thanks to the last-minute push from Cal Cities members and others. In the end, only four senators and 14 assembly members voted against the measure. The bill aims to better inform the public’s understanding of online transactions and the flow of goods across the state with new, modernized reporting requirements. This measure would, beginning on or after January 1, 2022, require retailers whose annual online sales exceeded $50 million in the previous calendar year to report gross receipts of online sales for each local jurisdiction where it shipped or delivered a product to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

Other notable bills currently awaiting action include SB 278 (Leyva), SB 270 (Durazo), AB 237 (Gray), SB 780 (Cortese), SB 60 (Glazer), SB 556 (Dodd), AB 970 (McCarty), AB 43 (Friedman), AB 773 (Nazarian), AB 89 (Jones-Sawyer), AB 48 (Gonzalez, Lorena), AB 46 (Rivas, Luz), SB 50 (Limón), SB 314 (Wiener), AB 61 (Gabriel), SB 389 (Dodd), and AB 602 (Grayson). Updated sample letters of support or opposition will be available shortly after the Legislative Call to Action webinar.