Cities fare well in final days of the 2022 legislative cycle

Oct 5, 2022

Two themes dominated the Capitol as Gov. Gavin Newsom signed or vetoed over 1,000 measures: an emphasis on high-profile, national issues and fiscal prudence. Although the Governor vetoed 169 bills — slightly more than in the last two years — the League of California Cities and its members advanced many city priorities in the final days of the session.  

Cal Cities, along with a broad coalition of member cities and local government associations, helped secure the signing of multiple behavioral health, solid waste and recycling, public safety, and governance bills, all with positive impacts for cities.  

Cal Cities also successfully urged the Governor to veto several Cal-Cities opposed measures, including one that would have cost local governments $2 billion in revenue loss. 

Additionally, Cal Cities carved out flexibility for cities in several bills that threaten local control — including SB 931 (Leyva), AB 2011 (Wicks), and SB 6 (Caballero) — which were eventually signed by the Governor. The amended versions are better than their original drafts and are the result of months of negotiations and sustained member advocacy.  

Below is the outcome of the most notable bills highlighted during Cal Cities’ recent sign/veto webinar.   

Transportation, Communications, and Public Works 

With regards to transportation, Cal Cities' hot streak continued into the final days, as the Governor’s pen mirrored many city priorities.  

The Governor signed AB 2752 (Wood), which gives the California Public Utilities Commission explicit directions to collect more granular, address-level broadband data. After successfully securing $6 billion in broadband funding last year, Cal Cities shifted its focus to deficiencies in broadband mapping, one of the causes of the digital divide. Current maps that define broadband availability in California generally overstate access or minimize poor connections. Under this new law, updated maps will ensure that last-mile connections are accurate and broadband funding goes to those who need it most.  

The Governor also acted on SB 932 (Portantino). As originally introduced, the bill would have created costly mandates and exposed cities to legal risks when developing their general plans. Following significant pressure from cities, these harmful and costly provisions were removed. The bill now requires evidence-based strategies to reduce fatalities when updating a circular element. After Cal Cities moved to a neutral position, SB 932 advanced to the Governor's desk, where it was signed into law.   

He also vetoed AB 1685 (Bryan) after receiving Cal Cities’ request to veto letter. The measure would have required cities to forgive at least $1,500 in parking fines and fees annually for an unhoused resident. Like Cal Cities, the Governor noted that cities already provide designated safe parking areas and have payment mechanisms that allow people with outstanding parking citations to repay their fines and penalties while registering and driving their vehicles.   

Community Services 

Lawmakers placed an increased emphasis on expanding access to behavioral health services this year, particularly for unhoused Californians. The most notable of these bills was SB 1338 (Umberg), the legislative vehicle for the Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Court Program. After securing several key amendments, Cal Cities submitted a coalition request for signature letter to the Governor with over 70 cities. SB 1338 was quickly signed into law and the first cohort of counties will begin implementation in October 2023. 

Cal Cities also requested the Governor’s signature on a complementary package of bills from Sen. Susan Eggman. Originally an eight-measure package, four bills made it to the Governor’s desk. Collectively, the measures focus on better coordinating existing behavioral health care systems and increasing access to statewide data.  

The Governor signed three of the four measures — SB 929, SB 1035, and SB 1227 — but vetoed SB 1238. The measure would have inventoried current and projected behavioral health care infrastructure and service needs in each region of the state. In his veto message, the Governor cited significant fiscal impacts as the main reason for not signing the measure.  

He also vetoed AB 2281 (Lackey), again citing significant fiscal impacts. The bill would have established a grant program to improve access to mental health services for children under the age of five. Cal Cities supported AB 2281, as local governments would have been eligible to receive funding to expand access to services during a critical developmental stage.  

Other notable bills for cities include: 

  • AB 1742 (Rivas) California Cigarette Fire Safety and Firefighter Protection Act: Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. 
    Cal Cities Position: Requested Signature; Signed   

  • AB 2164 (Lee) Disability Access: Certified Access Specialist Program: Funding. 
    Cal Cities Position: Requested Signature; Signed 

  • AB 2645 (Rodriguez) Local Emergency Plans: Integration of Access and Functional Needs: Community Resilience Centers. 
    Cal Cities Position: Requested Signature; Signed 

Housing, Community, and Economic Development 

The Legislature continued to be hyper-focused on housing and land use policies at the local level by introducing dozens of bills to limit cities’ land use authority, require local zoning changes, limit parking requirements, and restrict development impact fees.  

Cal Cities actively fought against AB 2097 (Friedman), which fails to consider local conditions or needs with respect to parking requirements. After significant opposition from cities, AB 2097’s scope was narrowed, allowing cities to require parking minimums on a project that is within one-half mile of public transit if the public agency makes written findings that not imposing or enforcing minimum parking requirements would have a substantially negative impact. The Governor signed AB 2097. 

Two other Cal Cities-opposed measures, AB 2011 (Wicks) and SB 6 (Caballero), were also signed into law. Both measures seek to expedite housing developments in areas zoned for office, retail, or parking. AB 2011 would require cities to ministerially approve, without condition or discretion, certain affordable and mixed-use housing developments regardless of any inconsistency with their general plans, specific plans, zoning ordinances, or regulations.  

SB 6, on the other hand, is not a by-right proposal, as it makes housing developments in office, retail, or parking zones subject to the California Environmental Quality Act. While Cal Cities opposed these measures throughout the legislative cycle, each bill was amended to include some flexibility for cities. Most importantly, AB 2011 and SB 6 contain language that allows cities to exempt some parcels from housing development as long as other parcels are identified that result in no net loss of residential density. 

The Governor also signed SB 897 (Wieckowski), which Cal Cities strongly opposed. This measure makes numerous changes to accessory dwelling unit (ADU) law, even though the law has been amended each of the last five years. Notably, this measure forces cities to allow ADUs with a height of 25 feet to be constructed if they are attached to the primary dwelling. SB 897 also prohibits a local agency from requiring a zoning clearance or separate zoning review for either attached or detached ADUs that meet the objective criteria specified in state law. 

Environmental Quality 

Most of Cal Cities’ priority environmental quality bills made it past the Governor's desk unscathed, most notably AB 1985 (R. Rivas). Sponsored by Cal Cities, the bill gives cities an additional two years to comply with the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery’s (CalRecycle) SB 1383 (Lara, 2016) organic waste diversion procurement requirements.  

SB 1383 calls for a dramatic reduction in the amount of food, yard, and other organic waste in order to reduce methane, a climate super polluter. This includes procuring recycled organic products, such as mulch and compost.  

The Governor also signed AB 2142 (Gabriel) into law, which Cal Cities supported. The bill will reinstate an important tax exemption for turf replacement rebates from gross income in California. The exemption will remove barriers for low-income families and help conserve water at a minimal cost to the state.  

Additionally, the Governor vetoed AB 2247 (Bloom), a measure that would have required manufacturers of PFAS or a product containing intentionally added PFAS to register the PFAS or the product on the publicly accessible platform. Cal Cities supported the measure, due to its cost-effective approach to public health and potential to increase public awareness about these dangerous, highly common “forever chemicals.” The Governor cited fiscal concerns in his veto message

Other notable bills for cities include: 

  • AB 2440 (Irwin) Responsible Battery Recycling Act of 2022. 
    Cal Cities Position: Requested Signature; Signed 

  • SB 54 (Allen) Solid waste: reporting, packaging, and plastic food service ware. 
    Cal Cities Position: Requested Signature; Signed 

Public Safety 

Cities notched several wins in the final days before the Governor’s constitutionally mandated deadline to sign or veto hundreds of bills. The Governor expressed his commitment to addressing the rise in stolen catalytic converters by signing AB 1740 (Muratsuchi) and SB 1087 (Gonzalez). The new laws will require documentation of legitimate sales by designated personnel and prescribe fines and fees for those out of compliance. Cal Cities actively advocated for both measures since the beginning of the session.  

The Governor also signed AB 662 (Rodriguez) into law, a Cal Cities-sponsored measure that will create a peer-to-peer suicide prevention curriculum for firefighters and other first responders. Suicide amongst first responders has become a crisis, with more personnel dying by suicide than in the line of duty.  

The bill is complemented by AB 988 (Bauer-Kahan), which was also signed into law. AB 988 will create a five-year implementation plan for the 988 Suicide Prevention System. Both measures will provide life-saving programs and services that will help save lives. 

In response to an oversaturation of cannabis throughout the state, the Governor also signed SB 1326 (Caballero). Supported by Cal Cities, this measure will allow for the cross-jurisdictional import and export of cannabis and cannabis products to other states.  

However, despite strong opposition from Cal Cities and other local government partners, the Governor signed SB 1186 (Wiener), which will require all jurisdictions to change their ordinances to allow for the delivery of medicinal cannabis. Additional information about SB 1186, including a flexible draft ordinance, will be available in an upcoming issue of Cal Cities Advocate.  

Governance, Transparency, and Labor Relations 

Cal Cities continued to deliver governance and labor wins this year, scoring several major wins for cities in the last few days. Cal Cities supported, and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed, SB 1131 (Newman). The measure will establish an address confidentiality program for public entity employees and contractors, Safe at Home. The program will provide a substitute mailing address for workers facing threats of violence or harassment from the public because of their work serving a public entity and their communities. 

The Governor also signed AB 2647 (Levine). The Cal Cities-sponsored measure will ensure that local governments have the flexibility needed to immediately share documents online and without delay, expanding the ability of the public and local governments to be informed and engaged. 

In another beneficial move for cities, the Governor vetoed AB 1711 (Seyarto), a bill that would have required cities to post a notice on their website after a data breach. In his veto message, the Governor echoed Cal Cities’ opposition, stating that these notices could “substantially increase the risk of additional attacks.” In its veto request letter, Cal Cities also noted that the notices could create additional confusion at the expense of city resources.  

The Governor also took action on two workers’ compensation bills, signing SB 1127 (Atkins) and vetoing SB 284 (Stern). SB 1127 will fundamentally alter longstanding rules and timeframes for determining the eligibility for workers’ compensation claims. Cal Cities remained opposed to SB 1127 despite securing amendments, in part because the law does not harmonize with existing state rules. 

SB 284 — which Cal Cities also opposed — would have substantially expanded California’s current workers’ compensation presumption for post-traumatic stress disorders. The Governor’s veto message was similar to Cal Cities’ letter, stating, “Expanding coverage of the PTSD injury presumption to significant classes of employees before any studies have been conducted ... could set a dangerous precedent that has the potential to destabilize the workers' compensation system going forward, as stakeholders push for similarly unsubstantiated presumptions.   

Additionally, SB 931 (Leyva) was signed into law over Cal Cities’ intense opposition. The bill will authorize a public employee organization or applicant to file a claim with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) alleging a violation of the Government Code related to employer actions that may “deter or discourage” union membership. While the amended bill is significantly better than the original, PERB must still award attorneys’ fees and costs only when the employee organization is the prevailing party. This will likely expose public entities, even those determined to be faithfully adhering to state law, to significant new liability. 

Other notable bills include:  

  • SB 1089 (Wilk) Public employee retirement systems: prohibited investments: Turkey 
    Cal Cities Position: Requested Veto; Signed 

Revenue and Taxation 

Legislators sent several bills to the Governor’s desk with significant fiscal impacts to local budgets. The largest of these, AB 1951 (Grayson), was vetoed by the Governor. The Cal Cities-opposed sales and use tax exemption measure would have greatly reduced local government revenues for housing, transit, public safety, and other critical services. According to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, AB 1951 would have resulted in an estimated over $2 billion revenue loss for local governments over a five-year window. 

However, he extended a sales and use tax exemption provided to local governments for zero-emission transit buses by signing AB 2622 (Mullin). The Cal Cities-supported exemption will help cities transition their fleets to zero-emission vehicles as required by an upcoming California Air Resource Board regulation

The Governor also vetoed SB 1449 (Caballero), once again citing spending concerns. Supported by Cal Cities, the measure would have authorized grants to cities for infrastructure projects in proposed or completed annexations of unincorporated areas, particularly disadvantaged communities. 

Other notable bills include:  

  • AB 2887 (Garcia, E.) Public resources: Sales and Use Tax Law: exclusions 
    Cal Cities Position: Requested Veto; Signed 

Looking ahead  

The groundwork for the 2023 legislative session is already being laid. In his veto messages, the Governor repeatedly noted that the state needs to remain, “disciplined when it comes to spending, particularly spending that is ongoing,” citing, education, health care, public safety, and safety-net programs as top priorities. Cal Cities' advocacy team and lawmakers are actively discussing how to advance city priorities and how best to respond to potentially lower revenues.  

However, Cal Cities cannot do its work alone. Cal Cities is currently collecting responses for its annual member survey. The survey results, along with the annual League Leaders Workshop, will directly impact Cal Cities’ Action Agenda for 2023, which will be adopted during the December board meeting.  

More information about the impacts of these bills will be available in an upcoming webinar, newsletter articles, and Cal Cities’ annual reports.