The 2019-2020 Legislative Session was like no other! What started out to be a promising 2-year session, with significant interest in our community from many legislators, ended with abrupt interruptions, two separate significant delays during session, modified hearing schedules, technology challenges, and a request from legislative leadership for legislators to dramatically reduce the number of bills they planned to carry. As a result of COVID-19 many good bills never got to see the light of day. The leadership in both houses identified the top legislative priorities – COVID-19 related issues, homelessness, and wildfires – and asked legislators to focus their agendas on the identified priorities. Soon thereafter, the nationwide unrest and cries for social justice caused by the killing of George Floyd created an urgency for legislators to include police reform bills as a priority somewhat late in the session.
At the close of the legislative session on August 31, 2020, the legislature sent approximately 40% of the typical number of bills to the Governor for signature. Among the bills awaiting the Governor’s signature are several that pertain to emergency services for people with Access and Functional Needs, In-Home Support Services, Mental Health Support, Office of Emergency Planning Guidance and Tele-Communication, Health Care and Essential Workers Personal and Protective Equipment, Community Transition Programs, and several Criminal Justice and Police Reform bills that could have a positive impact for our community. We are hopeful and will continue to advocate for the Governor to sign these important measures.
California Legislature Reconvenes
The California Legislature’s summer recess was extended by 14 days as a result of Assembly Members and staff being positive for COVID-19. The Legislature is scheduled to return July 27, 2020 with safety protocols in place that, among other things, allow at-risk members to remain in their district and vote remotely during committee hearings. The Senate will require members to be present, on the Floor, during the final 2 weeks of the session. The Assembly will allow proxy voting during the Floor sessions for members who cannot return to the Capitol.
As a result of the first closure in March lawmakers were asked to limit their bills and focus on three priority areas; COVID-19, wildfires and homelessness. Once again, as a result of the second closure, lawmakers have been asked to reduce their already reduced bill package. There are still hundreds of bills awaiting a vote so the next two weeks will consist of long days, long hearings and as many bills as the legislature can possibly get through in the limited time it has.
July 31st – Last day for policy committees to hear and report bills to the fiscal committees
August 7th – Last day for policy committees to meet and report bills
August 14th – Last day for fiscal committees to meet and report bills
August 17th – Floor sessions only
August 21st – Last to amend bills on the Floor
August 31st – Last day for each house to pass bills
Once the legislature reconvenes, we will have a better idea of the narrow priorities that will be addressed in the short remainder of this legislative session. However, we do know that bills related to COVID-19 are still a priority for the legislature so we expect that many of those bills will proceed through the hearing process. Wildfires and homelessness are still a priority for the legislature as is police reform, but we may see the overall number of those priority bills decrease for this session with the expectation that they will address them in the next legislative session.
The legislature and advocates are working hard to get the legislative session back on track or at least as close as possible to what a typical legislative session would look like. Although this year is anything but typical there are still many bills to be heard – most somehow related to the identified priorities of COVID-19, wildfires, or homelessness – and policy committees have been hearing bills accordingly. There have definitely been some challenges such as bills not being referring to more than one committee (known as double -referred) for policy discussions. Often the more complex bills impact more than one policy area, so they get referred to the respective policy committees for discussion ultimately resulting in a more thorough discussion about potential unintended consequences. However, the call-in option for public comment has been a good opportunity for the advocacy community since in previous years many people could not get to the Capitol to give public comment.
One thing that hasn’t really changed is deadlines – house of origin (policy, fiscal and floor), budget committee deadlines, and the constitutional deadline to pass the budget. Upcoming deadlines in the next few weeks include:
Last day for policy committees to hear and report to fiscal committees fiscal bills introduced in their house
Last day for policy committees to hear and report to the floor nonfiscal bills introduced in their house
Last day for policy committees to meet prior to June 1
Budget Bill must be passed by Midnight
Last day for fiscal committees to hear and report to the floor bills introduced in their house
Last day for fiscal committees to meet prior to June 29
As we work our way through the next few weeks and the respective deadlines we will be reaching out and encouraging your participation in advocacy efforts.
The California Assembly will return to business, not quite as usual on May 4, 2020. Policy and Budget hearings will be held but the Assembly has issued strict guidelines related to participating in the legislative process during the COVID-19 Pandemic. There will be health screening at the entrance of the Capitol and limited public access to the hearing rooms for in-person public comment. The Assembly is encouraging public participation and comment through a dedicated phone line. The phone number will be given at the beginning, and throughout, the hearings. The Assembly memo detailing the new guidelines can be found here: https://capitolmr.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/assembly.pdf
Next week’s hearings include an Informational Hearing on Critical Health and Human Services Related to the COVID-19 Crisis, Education Committee and Human Services. There are several other hearings scheduled but a significant number are still postponed. For current hearing information check the Assembly Daily File at: https://www.assembly.ca.gov/dailyfile
The Senate is scheduled to return on May 11, 2020. For information about the Senate schedule check the Senate Daily File at: https://www.senate.ca.gov/dailyfile