League of California Cities logoLast week’s twice-yearly bill culling held few surprises. Lawmakers kept a few more bills in the dreaded suspense file than normal — about a third compared to their average of 25% — including a single-payer health care bill. But most passed through, potentially punting hard financial calls to legislators in the other house.

As usual, it was a mixed bag for cities. The committees pressed pause on bills that could have big impacts on city budgets but ushered similar bills along with just a few minor changes. Most of Cal Cities’ sponsored legislation passed out of appropriations committees, as did priority retail theft measures.

The aptly named suspense file is a chance for the Assembly and Senate appropriations committees to review the impact of hundreds of bills on the state’s coffers. Holding a bill in the suspense file effectively kills it for the year. This year, legislators amended a little over 100 bills to bring down their costs.

Asm. Buffy Wicks, who leads the Assembly Appropriations Committee, even held one of her own bills. Sen. Anna Caballero, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, summed the state’s dour fortunes succinctly to CalMatters: “We don’t have the money.”

Still, unless a lot of analysts got a lot of things wrong, legislators will likely have to trim even more bills in August or risk Gov. Gavin Newsom’s veto.

There’s still plenty of time to stop the bad bills that made it through, but city leaders will need to act fast — summer recess will be here soon. Below is a breakdown of the top bills that made it off suspense and those that met a grisly end.

-Brian Hendershot, Cal Cities Advocate managing editor

Revenue and Taxation

The suspense file yielded mixed results for major revenue measures. By a vote of 5-2, the Cal Cities-opposed SB 1164 (Newman) passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The measure would deprive cities of essential revenues generated by property tax assessments of accessory dwelling units.

The author amended the bill to reduce the length of the exemption from 15 years to 10 years. Still, SB 1164 would significantly impact local government revenues and have a multimillion-dollar impact on the state’s General Fund. Lawmakers and the Governor will need to square this with the state’s $27.6 billion budget deficit, which analysts warn could be higher.

Some positive measures for cities did pass off the suspense file and onto the floor, including:

  • AB 2061 (Wilson) Sales and Use Tax: exemptions: zero-emission public transportation ferries
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)
  • AB 2564 (Boerner) Property tax postponement: Senior Citizens and Disabled Citizens Property Tax Postponement Fund
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)

– Ben Triffo, legislative affairs lobbyist

Public Safety

Most of Cal Cities’ priority public safety bills made it out of the appropriations committees, including several retail theft bills. Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas’ entire package of retail theft reform bills passed out of committee, including AB 2943 (Zbur) — with amendments that clarify the definition of a warrantless arrest and a provision prohibiting filing nuisance charges against retailers for reporting crime.

Lawmakers did hold several measures that would have increased penalties for illicit fentanyl and therefore costs to the state. However, lawmakers did send SB 1502 (Ashby) to the floor for a vote. This Cal Cities-supported bill would create penalties for the illicit position, use, sale, and trafficking of xylazine — also known as “tranq.” Other priority bills include:

  • AB 1960 (Soria) Sentencing Enhancements: Property Loss
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)
  • AB 2814 (Low) Crimes: Unlawful Entry: Intent to Commit Package TheftCal Cities Position: Support (Status: Held)
  • AB 3171 (Soria) Controlled Substances: Fentanyl
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Held)
  • AB 3209 (Berman) Crimes: Theft: Retail Theft Restraining Orders
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)
  • SB 1060 (Becker) Property Insurance Underwriting: Risk Models
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed as Amended)
  • SB 1144 (Skinner) Online Marketplaces
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)

– Jolena Voorhis, legislative affairs lobbyist

Community Services

The suspense file was always going to be a big hurdle for several community service bills, including bills that seek to address the lack of oversight and overconcentration of recovery housing. Continuing a decades-long trend of failing to protect residents and hold bad actors accountable, lawmakers held the Cal Cities-sponsored SB 913 (Umberg). The bill would have let cities collaborate with the state to investigate and enforce existing alcohol and drug treatment licensing laws.

However, two other sponsored measures, AB 2081 (Davies) and AB 2574 (Valencia), are moving forward. Both measures focus on increasing transparency for alcohol and drug treatment facilities. Other priority bills include:

  • AB 2265 (McCarty) Animals: euthanasia.
    Cal Cities Position: Oppose (Status: Held)
  • SB 1017 (Eggman) Available facilities for inpatient and residential mental health or substance use disorder treatment.
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Held)

– Caroline Grinder, legislative affairs lobbyist 

Housing, Community, and Economic Development

As expected, the major housing bills that Cal Cities has concerns with passed through the appropriations committee in both houses. Chief among these is SB 951 (Wiener), which would require coastal cities to update their local coastal programs during each housing element cycle. Cal Cities opposes the bill unless the author makes amendments that address timing and cost concerns.

The suspense file was not a total loss though, as AB 2881 (Lee) was held in committee. The measure would have created a new state agency tasked with building housing in jurisdictions that do not meet state-mandated housing numbers regardless of local zoning codes.

AB 2085 (Bauer-Kahan) also passed, which Cal Cities supports if amended. This bill addresses the approval process for community health clinics. Cal Cities is calling for more clarity in the definition of community health clinics, distance requirements from sensitive sites, and a longer approval timeline.

Other priority bills include:

  • AB 2140 (Carrillo) Housing: Building Home Ownership for All Program
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Held)
  • AB 2665 (Lee) Housing finance: Mixed Income Revolving Loan Program
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Held)
  • AB 2910 (Santiago) State Housing Law: local regulations: conversions of commercial or industrial buildings.Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)
  • SB 1234 (Allen) Coastal resources: local land use plan: zoning ordinances and district maps: nonsubstantive modifications
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)

– Brady Guertin, legislative affairs lobbyist

Environmental Quality

Cal Cities’ top environmental quality bills weathered the storms of the suspense last week. The Assembly Appropriations Committee passed the Cal Cities-sponsored AB 2330 (Holden), which would streamline permitting for local wildfire preparedness efforts. The committee removed a state mapping requirement but kept the proposed permitting intact.

SB 972 (Min), also sponsored by Cal Cities, passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee unscathed. The bill would bolster technical assistance to cities removing organic waste from landfills and require CalRecycle to report to the Legislature on efforts to reduce methane emissions from landfills.

Other bills had trouble navigating the seas of suspense. Legislators held both AB 1922 (Davies) and SB 903 (Skinner). AB 1922 would have created a new program that encourages young adults to engage in climate resilience, clean energy, and sustainable infrastructure projects. SB 903 would have prohibited the sale or distribution of any product that intentionally contains forever chemicals unless their use is unavoidable.

Other priority bills include:

  • SB 1461 (Allen) State of emergency and local emergency: landslideCal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)
  • AB 2776 (Rodriguez) Recovery from disaster or emergency: funding priority
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)
  • SB 1330 (Archuleta) Urban retail water supplier: water use
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)
  • SB 1046 (Laird) Organic waste reduction: program environmental impact report: small and medium compostable material handling facilities or operations
    Cal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)

– Melissa Sparks-Kranz, legislative affairs lobbyist

Governance, Transparency, and Labor Relations

The suspense was truly felt in Cal Cities’ governance portfolio. Two bills that Cal Cities strongly opposes lived to see another day in the Legislature: AB 2421 (Low) and AB 2561 (McKinnor). AB 2421 would restrict internal investigations into workplace misconduct by broadly limiting employer-employee communications. AB 2561 would require local agencies with bargaining unit vacancy rates that exceed 10% to create and implement a plan that reduces vacancies to 0%.

The Cal Cities-sponsored AB 2631 (Fong) also, moved to the floor. The bill would require The Fair Political Practices Commission to ensure local officials have access to ethics training that is free of cost and readily available

Legislators did take action to quell budget concerns. Lawmakers held AB 2404 (Low), a re-introduction of last year’s AB 504 (Reyes). The measure would have declared sympathy striking a human right and prohibited policies that limit or prevent employees from honoring a strike line. Other priority bills include:

  • AB 2557 (Ortega) Local Government Contracting: Performance ReportsCal Cities Position: Oppose (Status: Passed)
  • SB 1116 (Portantino) Unemployment insurance: trade disputes: eligibility for benefits.Cal Cities Positions: Oppose (Status: Passed)

– Betsy Montiel, legislative affairs analyst

Transportation, Communications, and Public Works

Several priority transportation measures advanced out of appropriations and onto the floor. Legislators narrowed SB 915 (Cortese) to allow cities with over 250,000 residents to regulate self-driving car services. They also approved SB 1387 (Newman), which would give cities a $7,500 voucher for zero-emission vehicles when complying with the Advance Clean Fleet rule. Cal Cities supports both measures.

Another Cal Cities’ success, SB 689 (Blakespear), would allow local governments to convert motorized vehicle lanes into dedicated bicycle lanes within California’s coastal zone without a coastal development permit or an amendment to a local coastal program. The bill would increase recreational public access to the coast while also promoting active transportation.

Other priority bills include:

  • AB 2286 (Aguiar-Curry): Autonomous VehicleCal Cities Position: Support (Status: Passed)
  • SB 1418 (Archuleta): Hydrogen Permitting
    Cal Cities Position: Oppose Unless Amended (Status: Passed)
  • AB 2037 (Papan) Weights and MeasuresCal Cities Position: Opposed Unless Amended (Status: Passed)
  • AB 1890 (Patterson) Prevailing Wage
    Cal Cities Position: Opposed Unless Amended (Status: Passed)

– Damon Conklin, legislative affairs lobbyist

Next steps

Lawmakers have until May 24 to get their bills to their colleagues in the other house. After that, legislators repeat the policy committee process, with July 3 marking the last day for committees to meet.

Once bills make it to a second floor vote, they usually make it to the Governor’s desk. The next six weeks are the best time to stop bad bills in their tracks and ensure helpful bills pass. To find out which bills to advocate for or against, sign up for Cal Cities’ June 4 and July 8 webinars. To learn how you can make your voice heard, contact your regional public affairs manager.

Established in 1898, the League of California Cities is a nonprofit statewide association that advocates for cities with the state and federal governments and provides education and training services to elected and appointed city officials. Cal Cities’ mission is to expand and protect local control for cities through education and advocacy to enhance the quality of life for all Californians.