Six days to go and nearly 1,000 bills left to pass

Sep 6, 2023

The end of the 2023 legislative cycle is in sight. Last Friday marked the second half of the Legislature’s twice-yearly suspense file. When it comes to local governments, the second suspense file passed with few surprises and mostly beneficial results.

Measures related to bettering behavioral health care, stopping illegal fentanyl and overdose deaths, and restoring local control passed off suspense, as did several measures aimed at protecting local revenues. A few bad bills, including one that would create onerous new reporting requirements and another that would curb cities’ towing powers, were also held.

Gov. Gavin Newsom also made it clear that, insofar as bond measures go, his $4.7 billion mental health bond was the one to rally behind. The remaining bond measures were either killed entirely or may be reconsidered next year.

While some bad bills did slip through — most notably two measures that would limit local land use authority — cities still have time to stop them.

The rapid-fire suspense file process allows the appropriations committees to review the fiscal impact of any bills before they go to the floor for a full debate. Holding a bill on the suspense file is usually — but not always — a death sentence. Below is a breakdown of the top bills that made it off suspense and those that met a grisly end.

Community Services  

With the number of unhoused Californians rising, the Governor and Legislature have prioritized bills that take a comprehensive look at the state’s behavioral health system and make targeted improvements. This includes the Governor’s two-part legislative proposal, SB 326 (Eggman) and AB 531 (Irwin), which Cal Cities supports.

The Governor referenced Cal Cities’ support — and the support of several dozen mayors — in an August press release.

These measures would modernize the Mental Health Services Act and place a bond measure for 10,000 new community behavioral health beds and housing on the November 2024 ballot. This would ensure that California is better equipped to meet the needs of individuals experiencing severe behavioral health conditions and homelessness.

The two bills align with the League of California Cities’ advocacy priorities, which focus on strengthening state and local partnerships to connect individuals with the care they need through supportive services — including mental health and substance use treatment. Both SB 326 and AB 531 passed out of suspense and advanced to the floors of their respective houses.

Other priority bills include:

  • AB 33 (Bains) Fentanyl Addiction and Overdose Prevention Task Force
  • Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)    
  • SB 19 (Seyarto) Anti-Fentanyl Abuse Task Force
  • Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)  
  • SB 43 (Eggman) Behavioral health
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed) 
  • SB 363 (Eggman) Facilities for inpatient and residential mental health and substance use disorder: database
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Held)   

Housing, Community, and Economic Development

Although Cal Cities already sidelined some of the most egregious land use bills this session, the appropriations committees ultimately passed a handful of bills that would limit local land use authority, silence community input, and empower the California Department of General Services to approve housing on state-owned property.

Chief among them is SB 423 (Wiener), which received bipartisan support. The measure seeks to expand multifamily housing streamlining requirements, bypass the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and allow the state to determine local building requirements. Over 120 cities have joined Cal Cities in opposing SB 423.

Another Cal Cities-opposed bill, AB 309 (Lee), also cleared appropriations. This bill would create the Social Housing Program within the Department of General Service to build government-owned housing on leased state property or excess state-owned property. Cities would have little ability to regulate zoning or development standards — including floor area ratios, height limitations, and density requirements — on such developments.  

Other priority bills include:

  • AB 519 (Schiavo) Affordable housing: consolidated application process
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)
  • AB 1490 (Lee) Affordable housing: adaptive reuse
    Cal Cities Position: Oppose Unless Amended (Status: Passed)
  • AB 1657 (WIcks) The Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2024
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Held)

Public Safety

Despite some initial setbacks earlier this year, most of Cal Cities’ priority public safety bills are advancing to the Governor’s desk. The Cal Cities-sponsored AB 1168 (Bennett) passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 7-0 vote. The bill would clarify a city or fire district’s right to provide emergency ambulance services.

Several fentanyl bills passed off suspense as well, including AB 474 (Rodriguez) and AB 701 (Villapudua). AB 474 would increase statewide efforts to combat fentanyl tracking. AB 701 would add fentanyl to the list of controlled substances for large-scale dealers. Cal Cities supports both measures.

However, lawmakers did hold a bill that would have made it easier to permit cannabis businesses (SB 508, Laird) and one requiring the California Cannabis Authority to share delivery information with cities (AB 687, Hart). Cal Cities supported both measures.

Other priority bills include:

  • AB 40 (Rodriguez) Emergency medical services
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed as amended)
  • AB 1060 (Ortega) Health care coverage: naloxone hydrochloride
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed as amended)
  • AB 1360 (McCarty) Hope California: Secured Residential Treatment Pilot Program
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed as amended)
  • AB 1448 (Wallis) Cannabis: enforcement by local jurisdictions
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)
  • SB 641 (Roth) Public health: alcohol and drug programs: naloxone
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed as amended)

Revenue and Taxation

With the budget in the rear-view mirror, the appropriations committees approved several measures with significant fiscal impacts to the state. However, many of these measures are unbudgeted and the Governor has signaled a desire to veto bills without a line item in this year’s budget.

Perhaps the best news for cities is that ACA 13 (Ward) and ACA 1 (Aguiar-Curry) passed off suspense. ACA 13 would require any initiative constitutional amendment to conform with any increased voter threshold that it seeks to impose on future ballot measures. ACA 1 would reduce the approval threshold for public infrastructure and affordable housing bonds to 55% — the same threshold as school construction bond measures.

The two constitutional amendments passed out of the Assembly on Wednesday and are now headed to the Senate for a second vote. Cal Cities supports both measures.

However, it wasn’t a complete victory. Lawmakers held the Cal Cities-sponsored AB 972 (Maienschein) despite its relatively small price tag. The bill would have coordinated, aligned, and streamlined 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.

Other priority bills include:

  • AB 84 (Ward) Property tax: welfare exemption: affordable housing
     Cal Cities Position: Neutral/Opposition Removed (Status: Passed)
  • SB 96 (Portantino) Historic Venue Restoration and Resiliency Act
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)

Transportation, Communications, and Public Works

Cal Cities scored a series of infrastructure victories, with two co-sponsored bills, SB 706 (Caballero) and AB 400 (Rubio, Blanca ), both advancing to the Governor’s desk. The measures would expand the use of design-build and progressive design-build delivery methods for local public work projects, saving cities time and money.

Cities could also notch another victory with AB 334 (Rubio, Blanca). If signed into law, AB 334 would allow cities to accept bids from design professionals for subsequent phases of public contracts. Current law has inadvertently and inappropriately limited the pool of qualified design professionals that cities can accept bids from. Cal Cities’ Public Works Department provided input on the bill’s language.   

A parking violations and anti-towing bill, AB 1082 (Kalra) was held in suspense for additional negotiations. Cal Cities opposed the measure, as it usurped cities’ authority to manage their streets and secured several amendments to water the bill down.  

An effort to expand broadband, AB 41 (Holden), advanced off suspense to the Senate Floor with amendments. The bill would update certain anti-discrimination requirements to increase access to video and broadband services in low-income and unserved communities.  

Other priority bills include:

  • 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)
  • AB 1297 (Quirk-Silva) Public Bathroom: Inventories
    Cal Cities Position: Concerns (Status: Held)
  • AB 1594 (Garcia) Medium- and Heavy-Duty ZEV: Public Fleets
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed as amended)

Governance, Transparency, and Labor Relations

In a win for cities, the problematic AB 1713 (Gipson) was held in suspense. The bill would have saddled cities that receive federal funds with onerous reporting requirements if the funds have an expiration date. Although the bill’s author made several attempts to address Cal Cities’ concerns, the measure still would have placed an unnecessary burden on local agencies.

California’s hot labor summer also shows no signs of cooling. AB 1484 (Zbur) and AB 504 (Reyes) both moved off the suspense file. Cal Cities opposes the bills since they 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 union. AB 504 would make sympathy striking and honoring the picket line a human right.

Although most governance bills passed with only minimal amendments, two bills received major changes. Cal Cities is evaluating the significant amendments to AB 764 (Bryan) and SB 553 (Cortese). AB 764 would make several changes to the FAIR Maps Act, which governs how cities with district-based elections can draw their district maps. SB 553 would make changes related to workplace violence, workplace violence prevention plans, and temporary restraining orders. 

Other priority bills include: 

  • AB 1213 (Ortega) Workers’ compensation: aggregate disability payments
  • Cal Cities Position: Oppose (Status: Passed as amended)
  • SB 623 (Laird) Workers’ compensation: post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Cal Cities Position: Oppose (Status: Passed)
  • SB 769 (Gonzalez) Local government: fiscal and financial training
    Cal Cities Position: Neutral (Status: Held)

Environmental Quality

Two notable environmental bills passed out of suspense and are on their way to their respective floors for a full vote. AB 1526, authored by the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, would require plastic producers to schedule and remit funds owed to a local government to cover the cost of last year’s landmark single plastic reduction use law. Cal Cities supports AB 1526.

SB 751 (Padilla) would require specific provisions in local service contracts that allow cities to maintain solid waste services during a workforce labor dispute and take administrative action to ensure that such services are maintained. Cal Cities had previously supported the measure. However, it adopted a neutral position after the bill was narrowed to focus only on force majeure provisions and expanded to all cities. 

In a blow to climate change mitigation efforts, legislators held AB 573 (Garcia). The Cal Cities-supported measure would have allowed some cities to comply with the state’s recovered organic waste requirements by procuring California-derived organic waste products from out-of-state facilities.

Other priority bills include:

  • AB 1572 (Friedman) Potable water: nonfunctional turf
    Cal Cities Position: Neutral (Status: Passed)
  • SB 272 (Laird) Sea level rise: planning and adaptation  

Cal Cities Position: Neutral (Status: Passed)

  • SB 511 (Blakespear) Greenhouse gas emissions inventories  
  • Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Held)
  • AB 2 (Ward) Recycling: solar photovoltaic modules
  • Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Held)
  • AB 985 (Arambula) San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District: emission reduction credit system
  • Cal Cities Position: Oppose (Status: Passed)
  • AB 1548 (Hart) Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund: grant program: recycling infrastructure projects
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)

Next steps

City leaders have just a few weeks left to make their voices heard in the Capitol. Lawmakers have until Sept. 14 to get their bills passed and onto Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. The Governor then has until Oct. 14 to sign or veto any measures.

To learn more about which measures to consider advocating for or against, subscribe to Cal Cities Advocate or contact your regional public affairs manager. Action alerts can happen quickly and often, so make sure to stay informed.