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Halfway through the Legislative session — where do we stand?

So far, this year hasn’t been kind to progressive policies — you’ve likely heard about how the state legislature failed to pass a fracking ban in April. We’re now halfway through the 2021 legislative session, a good time to take a look at how Courage’s legislative priorities have fared. 

Did our priority bills make it to the halfway point or are they officially dead for the year? The short answer: 8 out of 15 bills passed out of its house of origin (State Senate or Assembly) and still have a chance to become law later this year.

Status of Courage California’s 2021 priority bills:

  • AB 20 (Lee) conforms state law with federal law by prohibiting business entities and corporations from directly contributing to any candidate for elective office in California 
    • Inactive — held in its first committee without a vote
  • ACA 8 (Lee) addresses the out-of-control wealth inequality in the state by taxing the assets of billionaires and multi-millionaires, whether this wealth has been realized as income or not, effectively targeting the uber-wealthy in the state who can avoid direct taxation
    • Inactive — two year bill with it’s next committee hearing most likely to be in January 2022
  • AB 1400 (Kalra) guarantees comprehensive, high-quality health care for all Californians as a human right, leading the nation in the larger fight for health care justice
  • ACA 3 (Kamlager) amends the Constitution of California to end involuntary servitude in California
    • Active — still in the Assembly, headed to Assembly Appropriations Committee in August
  • AB 701 (Gonzalez) strengthens workers’ rights and protects warehouse workers from abusive work quota systems that are leading to widespread and potentially deadly physical and mental health issues
    • Made it through — passed by the Assembly, moved to Senate
  • AB 937 (Carrillo) protects community members who have already been deemed eligible for release from being transferred by local jails and our state prison system to immigration detention 
    • Made it through — passed by the Assembly, moved to Senate
  • SB 271 (Weiner) restores California’s long-standing eligibility requirements for Sheriff candidates, allowing all registered voters to run for Sheriff in their community 
    • Inactive — pulled by author
  • SB 286 (Min) requires the top-two vote-getters seeking election to a county office to face-off in a General Election, insteading of allowing someone to win outright in a Primary Election, when a smaller, less representative electorate participates
    • Inactive — was held in its first committee without a hearing
  • SB 17 (Pan) calls on California to declare racism as a public health crisis and to enact state policies to address systemic and institutional racism leading to poorer health outcomes and disparities in communities of color 
    • Made it through — passed by the Assembly with significant amendments, moved to Senate
  • SB 56/AB 4 (Durazo/Arambula) expands Medi-Cal to cover those who are income-eligible but currently excluded due to their immigration status. AB 4 would remove the exclusion of seniors altogether and SB 56 prioritizes an expansion to seniors, 65 and over, who are most at risk in the current COVID-19 crisis 
    • Made it through — passed by the Assembly, moved to Senate
  • SB 300 (Cortese) increases fairness in the justice system by reforming California’s unjust “felony murder special circumstance” law and ensuring that the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) will not be imposed on a person who did not kill or intend that a person die during the commission of a felony, such as robbery or burglary 
    • Active — still in the Senate, waiting on a Senate floor vote
  • SB 467 (Weiner) bans fracking and other destructive oil extraction methods and to require setbacks between oil extraction and homes and schools in California
    • Inactive — failed its first committee vote, may become two-year bill
  • AB 1177 (Chiu/Santiago) establishes the California state public bank to address the catastrophic economic consequences of COVID-19 
    • Made it through — passed by the Assembly, moved to Senate
  • AB 1041 (Wicks) expands the definition of “family member” for purposes of family and sick leave to allow workers to take time off to care for “an individual related by blood, or whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship”
    • Made it through — passed by the Assembly, moved to Senate
  • AB 1199 (Gipson) increases transparency by requiring all corporate landlords to report on the identity of the true owners of properties and taxes corporate landlords that own and rent out 10 or more properties in the state of California 
    • Inactive — was held in its first committee without a hearing

Having seven out of 15 bills “inactive” is a disappointing result. It looks just as dismal, if not worse, for our partners. 

Why aren’t state legislators voting for these important bills, especially with the urgency of a pandemic and climate crisis-induced natural disasters? 

When we look into the votes on our priority bills, it’s no surprise that we see many Courage Score Hall-of-Shamers continuing to block progress, and using their powerful roles as committee chairs to do so. 

Check out our blog about how Asm. Autumn Burke obstructs progressive taxation as the chair of the Committee on Revenue and Taxation, as she did with AB 1199.Her fellow committee members and Hall-of-Shamers, like Asm. Tim Grayson and Asm. Blanca Rubio, also came out publicly against ACA 8, stymying support for the bill. Read about howAB 20 died this year in the Assembly Elections Committee and how Asm. Blanca Rubio blatantly pledged her allegiance to corporations. Lifetime Hall-of-Shamer Senator Steve Glazer chairs the Senate Elections Committee, also a hurdle for progressive election reform, which is why SB 286 didn’t make it through this year.

Committee chairs continue to be the greatest challenge for our priority bills — they wield a lot of power in deciding whether a bill can be heard or recommending how the rest of the committee should vote. AB 1400’s first challenge was in Assembly Rules, headed by Asm. Ken Cooley, life-time Courage Score F. It’s no wonder it never made it past its first reading. We’ve even seen first-time All-Star Sen. Anthony Portantino stall many progressive bills as the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

Some bill authors pulled their own bills — like Sen. Dave Cortese with SB 300 — because they couldn’t whip up enough support from the caucus of corporate-backed Democrats that includes many of Courage Hall-of-Shamers. 

While Courage Score All-Stars like Asm. Ash Kalra and Sen. Scott Wiener continually puts forward bills to support all Californians, but they keep running up against obstacles in their own party. Is this the best we can do with a Democratic supermajority in both houses? It’s clear, the problem is coming from inside the house(s).

That’s why all of us need to be aware of who our legislators are, what they’re doing, and what we can do to hold them accountable and get important legislation passed. Calls from constituents can make a world of a difference because otherwise these legislators believe no one is watching, except the corporate lobbyists who are always knocking at their doors. 

There’s still hope we can pass some much-needed policies this year, and it’s up to us to ensure our legislators are working for ALL Californians, not corporate and special interests.