Legislature reconvenes with unfinished business and new opportunities for 2022

Jan 5, 2022

The Senate and Assembly reconvened on Jan. 3, starting the second year of California's two-year legislative session. With the state again expecting a multibillion dollar budget surplus — currently estimated at $31 billion — and with continued COVID-19 impacts, city officials can expect many of last year’s policy issues to resurface.

The name of the game for the first month of the session is unfinished business. Next Friday is the last day for policy committees to approve fiscal bills introduced last year. Additionally, lawmakers are racing to move any bills from last year that are still in their house of origin before the end of the month deadline, meaning more bills may be revived in the coming week.

On the executive side, Gov. Gavin Newsom must submit his 2022-23 state budget proposal to the Legislature by Jan. 10. The Governor will again have to balance pandemic recovery and public health, along with one-time spending and long-term fiscal prudence. Both the Senate and Assembly have already put out their own budget proposals, which prioritize different issues.

Senate and Assembly leadership will remain the same: Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron will remain in their roles. However, although leadership appears to be stable, several high-profile departures in both chambers have already been announced, due in part to new district maps certified by the state’s independent redistricting commission.

Housing, homelessness, infrastructure, and climate change top of mind for Cal Cities and Legislature

The Legislature is prioritizing many of the same issues as the League of California Cities, which laid out its 2022 Action Agenda in December. Broadly speaking, Cal Cities’ legislative priorities center around securing funding and resources for affordable housing, critical infrastructure, homelessness prevention and assistance, and disaster preparedness, resiliency, and recovery. Cal Cities is already working with its state partners to ensure that cities can deliver critical services to their residents while upholding local decision-making.

Housing affordability and supply continue to be top of mind for lawmakers, and Assembly is expected to release a package of housing bills based on a series of statewide meetings it held with select stakeholders last fall. Cal Cities will continue to advocate for additional funding and state partnership opportunities that address homelessness, as well as the speedy delivery of the $1 billion in related funding previously earmarked for this year.

Infrastructure is also a major priority for lawmakers; the Assembly’s budget proposal includes $10 billion for local streets, roads, and highways, as well as supply chain interruptions at freight hubs and ports. Cal Cities and its members will continue to call on the state to invest in California's streets and roads as delaying these investments will only increase costs down the road.

Legislators are eyeing ways to supplement last year’s historic state and federal broadband investments — which Cal Cities helped secure — by focusing on expanding accessibility. One such priority is ensuring that the Federal Communications Commission has an accurate count of underserved and unserved communities so that public funding can be directed to improve networks in those areas. Another is to lower the equipment costs for municipal networks, which provide essential broadband services to communities.  

Cities can also expect to see lawmakers attempt to fast-track more aggressive greenhouse reduction regulations. A recent report found that California will likely miss its greenhouse emissions targets by several decades if the state maintains its current trajectory. Likewise, the state is focused on helping cities prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.

Unlike recent years, multiple solid waste and recycling issues are converging: a ballot measure on plastics, legislative efforts to overhaul single-use plastics and the recycling system, and local governments implementing the SB 1383 organic waste regulations. All these huge issues are going to collide this coming year, potentially leading to a flurry of legislative activity.

Growing crime rates, particularly organized retail theft and catalytic convertor theft, are becoming a bigger part of the political conversation as well. Assembly Member Rudy Salas has already introduced a limited repeal of Prop 47’s theft provision (AB 1603). However, most legislators seem wary of passing sweeping changes that revert previous decriminalization efforts. Many of the proposed measures focus on making it harder for individuals to sell stolen goods.

In the governance and transparency space, continued efforts to modernize the Brown Act, the safety of public meetings, and election reform are priority issues, along with local redistricting efforts and pension obligations. Additional labor and human resources efforts related to COVID-19 impacts are also expected.

Two-year bills of note

Legislators are working to keep several two-year bills of interest to cities alive this year. These bills must pass their house of origin by Jan. 31 to be considered. This includes AB 682 (Bloom) Density Bonus. Cohousing; AB 1551 (Santiago) Development bonus. Multi-use projects; AB 859 (Irwin) Mobility devices: Personal information; AB 377 (Rivas) Water quality: impaired waters; and SB 210 (Wiener) Automated license plate recognition systems: use of data.

There are several other two-year bills that remain active, but do not need immediate action since they already left their house of origin. These measures will be taken up later this summer. A list of notable two-year bills is below.

Housing, Community, and Economic Development

Transportation, Communications, and Public Works

Environmental Quality

 Public Safety

Community Services

Governance, Transparency, and Labor Relations

Revenue and Taxation