Cal Cities briefs city leaders on priority bills for 2022 legislative session

Mar 30, 2022

On March 24, the League of California Cities held a webinar on the major bills that could positively or negatively impact cities this legislative cycle. This year, more than 2,000 bills were introduced in the state Legislature. Cal Cities spent the past few weeks analyzing those bills and has created a list of more than 60 priority bills for cities.

The webinar is available online, along with its corresponding slides, which contain a short description of each bill. A summary of the most important measures discussed — including Cal Cities' position when one has been taken — is below.  

Housing, Community, and Economic Development

Lawmakers are considering a wide range of changes to housing laws this year, including accessory dwelling unit law, adaptive reuse projects, impact fees, and the Surplus Land Act, as well as potential funding for housing development. However, the most immediately significant bills are two parking bills, SB 1067 (Portantino) and AB 2097 (Friedman).

Both measures would significantly restrict parking requirements within one half-mile of public transit. Currently, the bill’s authors define public transit as a high-quality transit corridor with a 15-minute interval, or a major transit stop, such as a ferry terminal or rapid transit stop, with 15-minute intervals. Cal Cities is gathering more details about the bills and plans to submit a formal opposition letter shortly. 

Cal Cities is also concerned about AB 1976 (Santiago), which would levy fines on cities and counties in the Southern California Association of Governments that are unable to complete their rezoning process to accommodate 100% of the need for housing for very low- and lower-income households. It would also allow the Department of Housing and Community Development to complete the rezoning on behalf of the local jurisdiction. The new narrow timeline sets cities up to fail and Cal Cities will oppose the measure unless all concerns are addressed.

Positions on other priority Housing, Community, and Economic Development bills

Transportation, Communications, and Public Works

Cal Cities has identified three priority transportation bills. Perhaps the most important is AB 2120 (Ward), which would ensure that 55% of the bridge funds headed to California through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are allocated to local projects through a needs-based allocation. If enacted, these changes would increase federal funding available to local bridges from approximately $300 million annually to an estimated $800 million annually. California's bridges are some of the poorest in the nation and Cal Cities supports this vital measure.

However, Cal Cities opposes SB 932 (Portantino), a large, unfunded mandate that would require cities to adopt significant bicycle, pedestrian, and traffic calming elements when they develop and revise general plans. Cities and counties have been leading the charge in improving California’s local streets and roads system, often with extremely limited budgets. This bill ignores that funding reality and would expose local governments to significant legal liability.

Cal Cities is also opposing AB 2953 (Salas), a reintroduction of a similar bill from 2021 that Cal Cities opposed and was ultimately vetoed. Like last year, the bill requires local agencies to use the California Department of Transportation’s standards for certain projects, which are not aligned or appropriate for local streets and roads and may result in increased costs.

Community Services

The scope of the Cal Cities Community Services Policy Committee has been expanded to include legislation that addresses homelessness, mental health, and disaster preparedness. Several of those bills, including AB 1737 (Holden) and AB 2631 (O'Donnell), are undergoing consideration and changes in the Legislature.

Cal Cities has concerns about AB 1737, which would implement a series of new reporting and inspection requirements for children's camps that fall outside the scope of parks and recreation departments and code enforcement. The proposal would require a significant increase in staff at the local level and has an overly broad definition of “children’s camps.”

Cal Cities shares the same goal as the author’s office — to create safe environments for children at these camps — and is working collaboratively with the author to ensure this measure works for cities.

Cal Cities is also closely monitoring AB 2631. As currently worded, the measure would allow cities and counties to sue one another if a neighboring jurisdiction’s failure to effectively address the homelessness crisis results in another community being negatively impacted. Cal Cities will oppose this measure if it is set for a hearing.

Positions on other priority Community Services bills

  • AB 1789 (Bennett) Trails and Greenways Program — Support
  • AB 2346 (Gabriel) Outdoor Recreation. Equitable Access Grant Program — Support
  • AB 2465 (Bonta) Pupil Instruction. Literacy Grant Programs — Pending Support
  • SB 1047 (Limón) Early Learning and Care — Support
  • AB 2538 (R. Rivas) State Warning Center. Wildfire Smoke Notification — Pending
  • AB 2645 (Rodriguez) Local Emergency Plans. Integration of Access and Functional Needs. Community Resilience Centers — Pending
  • AB 2547 (Nazarian) Housing Stabilization to Prevent and End Homelessness Among Older Adults and People with Disabilities Act — Support
  • AB 2630 (O'Donnell) Housing. California Interagency Council on Homelessness. Report — Concerns
  • SB 513 (Hertzberg) Homeless Shelters Grants: Pets and Veterinary Services — Support
  • SB 1338 (Umberg) Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Court Program — Watch
  • SB 929 (Eggman) Community Mental Health Services. Data Collection — Pending
  • SB 1154 (Eggman) Facilities for Mental Health or Substance Use Disorder Crisis. Database — Pending

Environmental Quality

Organic waste regulations, recycling reform, and climate change continue to dominate environmental discussions within the state Legislature. Cal Cities is cosponsoring AB 1985 (R. Rivas), a bill that would help cities with their SB 1383 (Lara, 2016) procurement requirements. AB 1985 would create an online database of organic waste products on the market to enable local governments to connect with local farmers and community members seeking their products.

Cal Cities, along with a coalition of local government associations, is also calling on the state to include $180 million in the budget to help cities and counties develop and implement organic waste recycling programs. The requested funding would build on the $60 million in grant funding approved by the Legislature in 2021.

Cal Cities is also following SB 1393 (Archuleta). The measure would require a city, including charter cities, to obtain approval from the California Energy Commission before requiring that a fossil fuel-fired appliance be replaced with an electric appliance after the alteration or retrofit of a building. Cal Cities will adopt a formal position on the bill after it has gathered more information on the bill’s potential impacts on local zero-emission efforts

Positions on other priority Environmental Quality bills

  • SB 884 (McGuire) Electricity. Expedited Utility Distribution and Transmission Infrastructure Undergrounding Program — Pending
  • SB 852 (Dodd) Climate Resilience Districts. Formation. Funding Mechanisms — Watch
  • SB 1217 (Allen and Cortese) State-Regional Collaborative for Climate, Equity, and Resilience — Watch
  • SB 54 (Allen) Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act — Support in Concept
  • AB 2247 (Bloom) Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and PFAS Products and Product Components. Publicly Accessible Reporting Platform — Pending Support
  • SB 891 (Hertzberg) Business Licenses. Stormwater Discharge Compliance — Watch
  • AB 2160 (Bennett) Coastal Resources. Coastal Development Permits. Fees — Watch

Governance, Transparency, and Labor Relations

This year, lawmakers are considering changes to workers’ compensation, elections, the Brown Act, and CalPERS investments. Perhaps the most significant bills in the near future are SB 1044 (Durazo) and SB 1127 (Atkins).

SB 1044 — which Cal Cities opposes — would allow any employee to refuse to show up to work during a state of emergency because they feel unsafe. The breadth of the bill could cripple emergency responses, ignores existing protections, and undermines the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s existing health and safety procedures.

A reintroduction of a similar bill from last year, SB 1127 would fundamentally alter longstanding rules and timeframes for determining eligibility for workers’ compensation claims. Cal Cities opposes the measure due to the shortened timeline it proposes, the massive fines it would impose on employers, and the unnecessary expansion of temporary disability benefits it would create.

Positions on other priority Housing, Community, and Economic Development bills

Public Safety

Lawmakers are eyeing several systemic changes to California's justice system, as well as responses to high-profile trends, such as the rise in catalytic converter theft. One of the most impactful bills for cities is SB 1186 (Wiener). The bill would prohibit regulations that “unreasonably restrict” access to medicinal cannabis businesses. It would also require that local jurisdictions allow for delivery of medicinal cannabis to satisfy "reasonable access.”

Cal Cities opposes the bill since it would severely undermine local control.  The ability of local jurisdictions to regulate cannabis businesses was central to the passage of both the original Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act and Proposition 64, which legalized recreational cannabis.

SB 1186 also suggests that there are serious barriers to medicinal cannabis. However, 99% of Californians live in a county where retail is allowed either within the county or a city and in most cases, both.

There are serious costs associated with implementing these regulations as well, especially in smaller communities. Even the most enthusiastic, cannabis-permitting counties and cities have experienced significant general fund losses in their efforts to meet both local and state-imposed regulatory costs.

Additionally, Cal Cities opposes SB 1038 (Bradford), a measure that would indefinitely extend the prohibition on a law enforcement agency or law enforcement officer from installing, activating, or using any biometric surveillance system in connection with an officer camera.

Positions on other priority Public Safety bills

Revenue and Taxation

With another record budget surplus on the horizon, legislators have returned with several proposals that impact local budgets, such as tax exemptions and incentives for new annexations. Lawmakers have also proposed several bills of new concern to cities, most notably AB 1951 (Grayson) and AB 2328 (Flora).

AB 1951 would apply the existing state sales and use tax exemption for large manufacturing to city and county sales tax rates, converting a partial sales and use tax exemption to a full exemption. Cal Cities has not yet submitted a formal position, as several lawmakers are exploring ways to refund the tax credits to local governments. 

AB 2328 would preempt explicit or implicit local prohibitions on “home experience sharing units.” A home-sharing unit — distinct from a short-term rental — is noncommercial property, such as a pool, backyard, and docked boat, that is rented for no more than 18 continuous hours. Cal Cities is working with the bill's author to determine the scope of issues that arose to require legislation before it submits a formal response.

Cal Cities also has concerns about AB 2887 (Garcia, Eduardo), but has not yet adopted a formal position. The measure would increase the existing limit on sales and use tax exclusions to $150,000,000 each year for manufacturers that promote alternative energy and advanced transportation.

Positions on other priority Revenue and Taxation bills

How cities can respond

Many measures are still undergoing significant changes and Cal Cities staff need more information about their potential impacts on cities before taking a formal position. City leaders can expect sample letters for bills with formal positions in the coming weeks.

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.