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Progressives Kept Newsom in Office. Did Newsom Support Progressive Policies in 2021?

The deadline for Governor Newsom to sign bills passed by the state legislature into law was Sunday, October 10, ending the 2021 legislative session. So how did our progressive priority bills fare? Of Courage California’s 15 legislative priorities, only two made it to the Governor’s desk: AB 701 (Gonzalez) and AB 1177 (Chiu/Santiago). Both were signed into law. 

  • AB 701 (Gonzalez)
    Courage California worked long and hard alongside our partners — including Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), Los Angeles Labor Federation, Warehouse Worker Resource Center, Partnership for Working Families Action Fund — to pass AB 701, a bill that 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. This is a landmark law, the first of its kind in the nation to successfully regulate Amazon’s treatment of workers in the nation. AB 701 is part of our broader corporate accountability work to hold Amazon and other corporate giants from taking advantage of our communities.

    Courage California will work with our partners to ensure proper enforcement and protection of warehouse workers.  

  • AB 1177 (Chiu/Santiago)
    AB 1177 paves the way for establishing the California state public bank, BankCal, which would guarantee universal free banking access to all Californians. Large private banking institutions have long failed low-income communities of color, including during the 2008 Recession, when several banks illegally foreclosed on Californians across the state. AB 1177 will provide fair banking services for unbanked and underbanked communities, help address the wealth gap, and help shift California away from extractive private banks that invest in the fossil fuel industry and exploit people’s financial burdens.

The California Dream Alliance

The California Dream Alliance — California’s alliance of 70 organizations that focus on passing shared progressive policies — began the session with 28 bills. Eight of the Dream Alliance’s priority bills made it to the governor’s desk; he signed six.

  • SB 2 (Bradford) will rein in police misconduct by providing for independent investigation and decertification of police officers who have committed serious misconduct. The new law will also provide remedies to victims and their families by eliminating inappropriate immunities that are often used by law enforcement to evade accountability.
    • Signed by Governor
  • SB 447 (Laird) will allow recovery of noneconomic damages even if a victim passes away before trial or resolution of their case. Previously, California law incentivized defendants to prolong court proceedings in hopes that victims would die before trial. COVID-19 made this problem worse due to court delays. 
    • Signed by Governor
  • SB 650 (Stern) will require nursing homes to file annual consolidated financial statements, giving the State and the public more information on how nursing homes are spending taxpayer dollars.
    • Signed by Governor
  • AB 1487 (Gabriel) will establish the Homelessness Prevention Fund to fund education, outreach, and legal services targeted towards preventing homelessness among particularly vulnerable renter populations
    • Vetoed by Governor — Newsom believes that these changes should happen in the budget or that existing funds for housing aid should be reallocated. Read the full message here.
  • SB 334 (Durazo) will require for-profit detention facilities and prisons operating in California to meet and maintain insurance requirements, including workers’ compensation and liability, adhere to all appropriate state and local health, safety, fire and jail standards, and mandate that they obtain coverage from an admitted insurance carrier authorized to operate in California by the state’s Department of Insurance. 
    • Signed by Governor
  • AB 1177 (Santiago) will create the BankCal Program to provide essential financial services and allow individuals to open a no-fee, no-penalty transaction account with an associated debit card. In addition, this bill creates the Public Banking Option Board to oversee and administer the BankCal Program.
    • Signed by Governor
  • AB 339 (Lee, C. Garcia, R. Rivas) will provide greater public access to meetings of local agencies, as well as the state legislature, by promoting the use of teleconference technology to allow remote participation and to increase language access for limited English proficient residents.
    • Vetoed by Governor — Newsom believes that tying access to population size is not only confusing but limits flexibility and increases costs. Read the full message here.
  • SB 606 (Gonzalez) will ensure California’s workers are safe from egregious and flagrant violations by giving Cal/OSHA the tools and resources it needs to ensure employers are in compliance with the state’s laws. The law will also ensure workers are protected from retaliation so they feel safe to come forward and report unsafe working conditions.
    • Signed by Governor

The above bills will be included in our 2022 Courage Score, an annual state legislative and multi-issue scorecard, which will be released in January. 

Unfortunately, 2021 shaped up to be a dismal year for progressive policy — even with a budget surplus and an ongoing pandemic that necessitates drastic action be taken. Newsom survived the recall because we — the progressive voters of California — turned out to protect our pathway to progress. Now, we ask him to heed our mandate for bolder, more progressive change and pass the comprehensive legislation needed to ensure a thriving California for all.