The wait is over. Here are the bills that survived the suspense file

May 24, 2023

The legislative sword of Damocles has fallen, the results are tallied, and the verdict? The first suspense file of 2023 was mostly good for cities. Multiple high-priority, positive measures passed out of suspense with little to no amendments, and several problematic measures were held or significantly amended.

Among the League of California Cities-supported measures that passed off suspense are two high-profile mental health care bills, a measure that would speed up housing and commercial projects, a bill that would provide more flexibility for organic waste diversion, and a bill that would streamline local government assistance resources and funding opportunities.

Lawmakers also stopped several measures that would have made it harder for police to protect communities.

Of course, bills with negative impacts also passed out of suspense. An expansion to SB 35 (Wiener, 2017) passed — albeit with significant amendments — as did a bill that would require the state pension system to divest from fossil fuels. Lawmakers held a measure that would have created a grant program for overdose response teams but let two other fentanyl-related measures pass.

A twice-yearly process, the suspense file allows the powerful appropriations committees to review the fiscal impact of bills before they go to the respective legislative floor for a full debate. Of the 1,171 bills sent to the suspense file, the committees killed just over 300. The surviving measures must pass their house of origin by June 2.

During his May Revision, the Governor urged lawmakers to avoid sending him bills with hefty price tags. The Legislative Analyst's Office initially called that budget proposal "predicated on optimistic estimates." Today, they followed up with a much more dire prediction.

In other words, there is a significant amount of work left in the year and limited funding. Below is a breakdown of the top bills that made it off suspense — and those that did not escape the chopping block.

Community Services  

Two high-priority behavioral health measures, SB 43 (Eggman) and SB 363 (Eggman) advanced to the Senate floor. Both bills seek to modernize parts of California’s behavioral health treatment system to ensure that people with the most acute needs receive the care they need. The two measures support Cal Cities’ 2023 Advocacy Priorities, which seeks to secure increased funding and resources to prevent and reduce homelessness.

Although the Legislature has placed a lot of emphasis on accountability tied to state funding this session, lawmakers elected to hold SB 7 (Blakespear) and AB 550 (Schiavo) on suspense. SB 7 would have created new housing obligations for cities based on their point-in-time counts; AB 550 would have required cities to annually agendize those results and discuss plans to solve related issues. While Cal Cities appreciated the intent of SB 7 and AB 550, it had a concern position for both bills. What cities need the most to make meaningful progress is ongoing funding.

Cal Cities is also focused on finding ways to address the statewide substance use crisis and was pleased to see AB 33 (Bains) and SB 19 (Seyarto) pass off the suspense file. The measures would help better coordinate the state’s efforts to reduce fentanyl deaths and prevent overdoses. Unfortunately, the Cal Cities-supported AB 24 (Haney) — which would have required bars, gas stations, public libraries, and residential hotels to have opioid overdose reversal kits — was held.

Other priority bills include:

  • AB 595 (Essayli) Animal shelters: 72-hour public notice: euthanasia: study
    Cal Cities Position: Oppose (Status: Held)
  • AB 67 (Muratsuchi) Homeless Courts Pilot Program
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)
  • AB 262  (Holden) Children’s camps: safety and regulation

    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)

  • AB 531 (Irwin) Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Bond Act of 2024

    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)

  • AB 963 (Schiavo) The End the Foster Care-to-Homelessness Pipeline Act

    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Held)

  • AB 1215 (W. Carrillo) Pets Assistance With Support Grant Program: homeless shelters: domestic violence shelters: pets

    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed as amended)

  • AB 1321 (Bonta) California Coordinated Neighborhood and Community Services Grant Program 

    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)

  • SB 37 (Caballero) Older Adults and Adults with Disabilities Housing Stability Act

    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Held)

  • SB 321 (Ashby) Literacy: libraries: Local Public Library Partnership Program
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)

Housing, Community, and Economic Development

Since most housing and land use bills have little direct cost to the state, these measures are usually not placed on the suspense file. Instead, they move directly out of their appropriations committee to the Assembly or Senate floor for a vote. Still, lawmakers took action on several priority housing bills in appropriations, most notably SB 423 (Wiener).

The measure — which was significantly amended in committee — would modify and expand SB 35 (Wiener, 2017). Under the expansion, all cities would need to approve certain multifamily housing developments by-right, without discretion, public input, or environmental review. Cal Cities opposes the measure and will report on the amendments once they are in print.

AB 1490 (Lee) also passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The author recently amended the measure to allow cities to maintain greater discretion over certain housing projects, conduct environmental reviews, and impose objective design standards. While these amendments are helpful, the measure continues to limit cities’ ability to enforce maximum density, maximum floor area ratio, additional parking, or additional open space standards. Cal Cities remains opposed to the measure and is seeking additional amendments to address these concerns.

Other priority bills include:

  • AB 309 (Lee) Social Housing Act
    Cal Cities Position: Opposed unless amended (Status: Passed as amended)
  • AB 519 (Schiavo) Affordable Housing Finance Workgroup: affordable housing: consolidated application process
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)
  • SB 4 (Wiener) Planning and zoning: housing development: higher education institutions and religious institutions 
    Cal Cities Position: Support if amended (Status: Passed as amended)
  • SB 634 (Becker) Low Barrier Navigation Center: opportunity housing: use by right: building standards
    Cal Cities Position: Opposed unless amended (Status: Held)

Public Safety

Although Cal Cities suffered a setback earlier this year with Proposition 47 reform, the results of the first suspense file were much more favorable for cities. SB 719 (Becker), a measure that would have required law enforcement agencies to allow real-time access to their radio communications, was held in suspense. The proposed bill ran in direct conflict with federal privacy laws and would have required cities to make costly equipment procurements or decryptions.

AB 642 (Ting) was also held on suspense. Cal Cities opposed this measure, as it would have set arbitrary parameters for the usage of facial recognition software in officer-worn cameras. Investigators throughout the state have used this technology to solve crimes and prohibiting it would be a disservice to public safety.

Cal Cities is also opposed to AB 742 (Jackson), which passed off suspense with amendments. This measure would prohibit the use of police canines when apprehending and arresting suspects. K9s are an important, non-lethal tool that helps law enforcement de-escalate dynamic, life-threatening situations.

Proposed measures like these do not properly take into account community realities. De-escalation needs additional investment, not restriction. Other priority bills include:

  • AB 40 (Rodriguez) Emergency medical services
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed as amended)
  • AB 462 (Ramos) Overdose response teams
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Held)
  • AB 474 (Rodriguez) State Threat Assessment Center: transnational criminal organizations
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)
  • AB 701 (Villapudua) Controlled substances: fentanyl
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)
  • AB 1168 (Bennett) Emergency medical services (EMS): prehospital EMS
    Cal Cities Position: Sponsor (Status: Passed)
  • AB 1360 (McCarty) Hope California: Secured Residential Treatment Pilot Program
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)
  • SB 641 (Roth) Public health: alcohol and drug programs: naloxone
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)

Revenue and Taxation

Against the backdrop of a $31.5 billion budget deficit, fluctuating revenue forecasts, and economic uncertainty, the appropriations committees approved several measures with significant fiscal impacts. How the Legislature and Governor tackle these factors will be the defining issue of this session and a top priority for Cal Cities. One thing is clear, there will be plenty of fiscal fireworks.

For now, it’s all good news for cities. A Cal Cities-sponsored measure, AB 972 (Maienschein), passed off suspense. The bill would coordinate, align, and streamline local government assistance resources to ensure every community has the same opportunity to compete for state funding opportunities by convening a statewide, cross-agency working group.

SB 569 (Glazer) — also supported by Cal Cities — passed off suspense as well. This bill would provide financial relief to over 3 million low-and middle-income renters by increasing the renter's tax credit for inflation going forward and expanding eligibility to low-income renters.

Other priority bills include:

  • AB 84 (Ward) Property tax: welfare exemption: affordable housing

    Cal Cities Position: Concerns (Status: Passed as amended)

  • SB 96 (Portantino) Historic Venue Restoration and Resiliency Act

    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)

  • SB 588 (Allen) Property taxation: welfare exemption: lower income households: cap

    Cal Cities Position: Concerns (Status: Passed)

Transportation, Communications, and Public Works

This year, the Legislature advanced several bills related to electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, including AB 1504 (McCarty). Earlier versions of this measure would have forced cities to permit, by-right, EV charging stations and battery storage devices in the public right of way. Cal Cities secured several hard-won amendments to the bill, which was then ultimately held in suspense.  

In more good news, a longstanding Cal Cities priority, AB 41 (Holden), advanced to the Assembly floor. The bill would update certain anti-discrimination requirements to increase access to high-quality video and broadband services in low-income and unserved communities.

The Cal Cities-opposed AB 965 (Carrillo) also moved forward. The bill would require a local agency to batch process broadband permits. Cal Cities successfully forced amendments that struck out harmful provisions to cities and is seeking further changes so that the bill reflects existing federal requirements and provides more flexibility to cities. 

Other priority measures include:

  • SB 706 (Caballero) Progressive Design Build: Local Project Delivery Methods
    Cal Cities Position: Co-Sponsors/Support (Status: Passed)
  • AB 400 (Rubio, Blanca) Design Build: Local Project Delivery Methods
    Cal Cities Position: Co-Sponsor/Support (Status: Passed)
  • AB 334 (Rubio, Blanca) Public Contracts: Conflicts of Interest
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)
  • AB 744 (Carrillo) Transportation Planning: Use of Data
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed as amended)
  • AB 1637 (Irwin) Gov Domain Names
    Cal Cities Position: Opposed (Status: Passed as amended)
  • AB 735 (Berman) Utility Workforce Development
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Held)
  • SB 670 (Allen) Vehicles Miles Traveled
    Cal Cities Position: Concerns (Status: Held)
  • AB 1297 (Quirk-Silva) Public Bathroom: Inventories
    Cal Cities Position: Concerns (Status: Passed)
  • AB 1594 (Garcia) Medium- and Heavy-Duty ZEV: Public Fleets
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed as amended)

Environmental Quality

The appropriations committees approved several key environmental measures, including AB 573 (E. Garcia). The bill would address one of Cal Cities’ top priorities: securing more flexibility for cities’ SB 1383 (Lara, 2016) organic waste diversion requirements. AB 573 would help cities in the state’s rural and border regions meet SB 1383’s compost procurement targets when in-state facilities are unavailable or cost-prohibitive.

Cal Cities is also focused on ways to increase affordable housing production. One overlooked issue is the burdensome and slow timelines associated with connecting homes and commercial projects to the electric grid. The Cal Cities-supported AB 50 (Wood) — which passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee — would help speed up the process. The bill would require the California Public Utilities Commission to establish clear expectations for how quickly utilities are expected to deliver service to new customers. AB 50 also seeks to improve utility planning and information sharing.  

Other bills include:

  • SB 272 (Laird) Sea Level Rise Planning
    Cal Cities Position: Neutral (Status: Passed as amended)
  • SB 69 (Cortese) CEQA Document Requests
    Cal Cities Position: Oppose Unless Amended (Status: Passed as amended)
  • AB 460 (Bauer-Kahan) State Water Board Authority
    Cal Cities Position: Pending (Status: Passed as amended)
  • AB 1572 (Friedman) Non-functional Turf (Passed as amended)
    Cal Cities Position: Oppose Unless Amended (Status: Passed as amended)

Governance, Transparency, and Labor Relations

Of Cal Cities’ seven policy areas, the governance space yielded the least favorable outcomes for cities. SB 252 (Gonzalez) — which would require CalPERS to divest from fossil fuels by 2031 — made it out of the Senate Appropriations Committee. At a time when local budgets are tight and CalPERS' financial returns are uncertain, this bill could significantly increase cost pressures on local budgets.

It is critical that CalPERS has healthy investment returns. Divestment makes achieving the returns needed to maintain the plans' fiscal health more challenging. Cal Cities opposes SB 252 (Gonzalez). 

AB 1484 (Zbur) and AB 504 (Reyes) also moved off the suspense file with minimal changes. Both bills would make it harder to provide essential services. AB 1484 would allow temporary employees to be automatically included in the same bargaining unit as permanent employees at the request of the bargaining unit. AB 504 would allow public employees to participate in strikes even if they are not members of the striking union by declaring sympathy striking a human right. Cal Cities opposes both measures.

Next steps

Policy committees will not meet again until June. Lawmakers are racing to get their measures approved by their respective houses before June 2. Any bill that passes its house of origin must then go through policy committees and a floor vote again, this time in the other house.

Cal Cities will keep up the fight for city priorities, including the need for ongoing funding to reduce homelessness and increase the supply of affordable housing. To get involved, keep an eye out for action alerts and more in-depth legislative stories in Cal Cities Advocate.