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What Could Change for California in 2024? (Part I)

Courage California works to defend and extend economic justice, human rights, and corporate and political accountability through legislative advocacy, advocating for legislation we identify as priorities. The legislation Courage prioritizes serves ALL Californians – regardless of race, gender, or economic status – on key issues such as health care, housing, public safety, LGBTQ+ rights, labor rights, environmental and climate justice, and more, and includes select priorities from the various coalitions we belong to. 

This year, many of the bills currently going through the state’s legislative process could make significant changes in those issues! But what will these bills actually do? And what impact could they have? 

Courage California’s 2024 Priority Legislation: 

Climate Justice

Let’s start with climate justice. Not only has 2024 been the hottest year on record to this point, impoverished communities of color are exposed to double the cancer-causing particulates from fossil fuel pollution in the air than more affluent ones. ACA 16 would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot for voters that would declare clean air and water a right, giving the entire state government a framework for passing new legislation and imposing environmental regulations. Another ballot initiative under consideration is AB 1567, which would allow voters to decide on a $10 billion climate bond to address wildlife and flood protection and mitigation for extreme heat, all effects of climate change. And to address fossil fuel emissions, SB 252 would require the state’s public retirement systems to divest from Big Oil, lessening financing for the polluters. 

The Assembly is still considering ACA 16, and the Senate and the Assembly must pass it with a ⅔ majority to see it on the ballot in 2024. AB 1567 passed both houses and now is in negotiation in the Governor’s office and SB 252 passed the Senate and is being considered by the Assembly.

Public Safety

Public safety and criminal justice reform is an extremely hot issue in California, as pro-incarceration advocates are trying to change Prop 47 to increase penalties for retail theft and progressive district attorneys face recall attempts, largely funded by large corporations, right-wing donors, and law enforcement. In the California legislature, the incarcerated population could see reprieve through three bills. ACA 8 would allow voters to remove permissible indentured servitude – slavery – of prisoners from the California constitution. AB 280 limits the use of solitary confinement in jails and prisons, including ICE facilities, where prisoners are currently allowed to be held in small cells for up to 23 hours a day and SB 94 allows the courts to review cases where a person was sentenced to life without parole, considering current law. 

Another bill, SB 50, attempts to address the significant racism occurring in police traffic stops in California. For instance, Black residents made up more than 12% of all stops, despite being only 5% of the population, and they were detained for more than 20% of those stops. SB 50 would prohibit a police officer from stopping or detaining a driver for a low-level infraction.

As with ACA 16, ACA 8 needs to pass with ⅔ of the legislature’s vote to make it on the ballot in November. SB 50 and SB 94 are in the Assembly after passing the Senate, and SB 280 has passed the legislature and is on the Governor’s desk, although he has vetoed a similar bill before.

Health Care Reform

Racial bias and inequity in health care is a significant issue in California, especially in the Black community. Black Californians have a lower life expectancy, the highest death rates of most cancers, and the highest maternal mortality rate of any race in the state. Two bills in the legislature address that inequity directly – AB 2319 and AB 3161. AB 2319 would fund implicit bias training of doctors and show compliance data online in order to stop skyrocketing Black maternal mortality rates. AB 3161, the Equity in Health Care Act, would require health facilities to provide more extensive demographic data and provide plans to address racism and discrimination. 

Additionally, AB 3260 would empower patients to fight for mental health care when their insurance denies them, and AB 4 would make undocumented immigrants eligible to sign up for Covered California. All four of these health care bills have passed the Assembly and are being considered by the Senate.

Labor and Worker Rights

After 2023’s Hot Labor Summer, workers’ rights are having a new moment. The legislature is considering a bill, SB 1116, which would make striking and fighting for our rights easier by making workers on strike eligible for unemployment benefits. Two other bills, SB 227 and SB 1089, support out-of-work laborers by making anyone, regardless of immigration status, eligible for state benefits and by requiring a 90-day advanced notice to workers in pharmacies and groceries – major California employers, especially in small communities – if the business is going to close. All three of these bills have passed the Senate and are under consideration in the Assembly.

You can make a difference! Find your legislators here and let them know about the bills you care about.

Read our next blog to see what bills the California legislature is considering about housing and homelessness, economic justice, and LGBTQ+ rights!