Key bills to watch: The top public safety, environmental, revenue, and labor measures impacting cities

Jul 27, 2022

The Legislature returns next week for a month-long whirlwind of activity. First up is a gargantuan appropriations hearing — the first of many policy committee meetings scheduled until Aug. 12. Lawmakers will also need to get any financially significant bills through a second suspense file before they can move to the floor for a final vote. After that, Gov. Gavin Newsom has until Sept. 30 to act on any bills that make it to his desk.

Last week, Cal Cities Advocate summed up the top housing, infrastructure, homelessness, and climate change measures to watch. This week, Cal Cities is highlighting the top pending public safety, revenue, environmental waste, and labor bills.

Lawmakers mull modifications to catalytic converter rules and local cannabis regulations

Top of mind for Cal Cities and many lawmakers is the continued rise in stolen catalytic converters, which are often scrapped for a quick profit. According to major insurance companies, California has become the top state for catalytic converter thefts.

Lawmakers introduced several bills this year to reverse this trend, including AB 1740 (Muratsuchi), AB 2407 (O’Donnell), and SB 1087 (Gonzalez). Each of these Cal Cities-supported bills would increase the tracking of catalytic converter sales and outline parameters for who may purchase or possess them.

Legislators are also weighing two changes to California's legal cannabis industry: SB 1186 (Wiener) and AB 1014 (McCarty). AB 1186 would require all local jurisdictions to allow the delivery of medicinal cannabis and for non-retail storefront facilities to serve as storage for deliveries. The measure disregards both the intent of the state’s regulatory framework and the reality that local jurisdictions in California have vastly different needs.

Concurrently, AB 1014 would increase the value of cannabis goods that can be carried during delivery to $10,000. This would effectively make delivery vehicles medium-sized, roaming dispensaries — which are not allowed by the state — and create serious public safety concerns. Cal Cities opposes both AB 1014 and SB 1186.

Lawmakers will also consider SB 1000 (Becker), a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to allow public access to their radio communications. Cal Cities opposes the measure, as it directly contradicts existing federal directives and would create new challenges for multi-agency operations.

Cal Cities-sponsored bill would provide better mental health resources for first responders

California's rolling natural disasters have underscored the importance of mental health for firefighters and emergency medical personnel. Due to their jobs, first responders are five times more likely to suffer from a post-traumatic stress disorder or depression than others and many may be at an elevated risk for suicide. In 2020, those numbers increased, despite a decrease in the overall national suicide rate. 

First responders are often sent to general mental health practitioners who cannot provide culturally competent care. The Cal Cities-sponsored AB 662 (Rodriguez) would help reverse this trend by providing peer-to-peer resources for an evidence-based, comprehensive, and tiered approach to suicide safety for first responders.

More trash talk could yield more big waste reforms

Recycling has already had a big year in the Legislature. Cal Cities helped pass a landmark single-use plastics recycling bill and secured additional funding for organic waste recycling programs. Cal Cities is also sponsoring a bill that would help cities with their organic waste procurement requirements.

Cal Cities is advocating for two other environmental waste bills: AB 2247 (Bloom) and AB 2440 (Irwin). AB 2247 would require manufacturers of PFAS — common, harmful “forever” chemicals — or products containing intentionally added PFAS to register them on a publicly accessible reporting platform. PFAS are highly mobile, effectively indestructible, and often found in people’s bodies. This measure is an important first step in reducing the amount of PFAS present in watersheds.

Similarly, AB 2440 aims to reduce the number of batteries that are improperly disposed of due to the lack of a streamlined and convenient recycling system. When errantly discarded, batteries can create serious fire, health, and safety hazards. This measure would require manufacturers to establish a stewardship program for the collection, transportation, recycling, and management of batteries or battery-embedded products.

Cal Cities supports both measures, which are a part of the 2022 State Action Agenda

Less sales and use tax revenue, but more money for annexation projects

Legislators returned this year with several proposals that could positively impact local budgets, such as incentives for annexation projects. However, they also proposed bills that would further erode the sales and use tax base, which is already the narrowest in the country.

AB 1951 (Grayson) would create a significant annual local government revenue loss by temporarily expanding the existing partial sales and use tax exemption for manufacturing, research, and development to a full exemption. This would include any local voter-approved transaction and use taxes.

Likewise, AB 2887 (E. Garcia) would increase the annual sales and use tax exclusion limit for eligible alternative energy and advanced manufacturing by $50 million. Most of the benefits of this bill would flow to the state’s General Fund. Cal Cities opposes both AB 1951 and AB 2887 unless they are amended to reimburse local agencies for lost revenues.

Lawmakers are also considering several bills with positive impacts to cities. AB 2622 (Mullin) would extend the sales and use tax exemption provided to cities, counties, and transit agencies for zero-emission transit buses. SB 843 (Glazer) would dramatically increase the renter's tax credit and SB 1449 (Caballero) would authorize grants to cities for infrastructure projects in proposed or completed annexations of unincorporated areas, particularly disadvantaged communities. Cal Cities supports all three measures.

Possible changes to workers' compensation

Only a few bills remain in the governance, transparency, and labor relations space, two of which are related to changes to workers’ compensation. 

SB 1127 (Atkins) would fundamentally alter longstanding rules and timeframes for determining the eligibility of workers’ compensation claims and would impose massive new penalties on employers. These changes do not harmonize with existing state rules, which would prevent employers from complying with the proposed, abbreviated timeline. Cal Cities opposes the bill due to its impact on city budgets and investigation practices. 

Similarly, Cal Cities opposes unless amended AB 1751 (Daly). The measure would extend the sunset date of the existing workers’ compensation presumption for COVID-19 to Jan. 1, 2025. Cal Cities is seeking amendments that would extend the presumption for only one year. 

Cal Cities also opposes unless amended SB 931 (Leyva), which would allow an employee organization to file a claim with the California Public Employment Relations Board alleging a violation of a section of the Government Code that governs employer actions and union membership. Cal Cities is seeking changes that would reduce the size of the penalty and consider additional factors when determining the penalty’s size, such as the size of the agency and the number of prior violations. These amendments would protect city resources while also establishing significant monetary penalties that deter violations of existing statutes.

How cities can respond

As the legislative session progresses, updated letters and action alerts will be available in the Cal Cities Action Center. Cal Cities also maintains a list of upcoming legislative hearings on bills of interest, which is updated weekly when the legislature is in session.

It is critical that the Legislature hears from California cities about how bills will affect communities, and we urge all cities to submit position letters on these important measures.