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The 2021 California legislative session is over — how courageous were our representatives?

California’s legislative session just ended last week. During our midyear review, it was clear that progressive policies weren’t faring too well. Only eight out of fifteen of our priorities made it past the first house. The final count is two out of the eight bills made it out of the Legislature and are on the Governor’s desk to sign into law by October 10. This dismal result shows how the Democratic super majority has continuously failed to make bold moves despite the desperate conditions these past two years that have necessitated urgent action.

Status of Courage California’s 2021 priority bills:

  • ACA 3 (Kamlager) amends the Constitution of California to end involuntary servitude in California
    • Failed — didn’t make it to the Assembly floor
  • 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
    • On to the Governor’s desk
  • 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 
    • Failed — never made it to the Senate floor
  • 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 
    • Failed — never made it passed first Assembly committee
  • 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 
    • Failed — neither made it to their respective floors
  • 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 
    • Failed — never made it to its first Assembly committee
  • AB 1177 (Chiu/Santiago) establishes the California state public bank to address the catastrophic economic consequences of COVID-19 
    • On to the Governor’s desk
  • 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”
    • Failed — never made it to the Senate floor

When considering our partners’ bill and particularly the California Dream Alliance priority bills, which is the progressive legislative alliance of 70 partners in California, we see that many of their priorities suffered the same fate. Only eight out of 29 Dream Alliance priorities made it to the Governor’s desk. There’s a consistent pattern that roughly only 25% of progressive priorities were passed in the Legislature. 

This year started out with the introduction of strong progressive policies, but ended with the Legislature failing us bill after bill for the same reasons we discussed in our mid-year analysis. In short, corporate-backed Democrats are blocking our bills from being heard, kept whole and strong, and passed. 

While we collectively work towards replacing corporate Democrats in the Legislature and holding Committee Chairs publicly accountable for the ways they impede progress using tools such as our annual Courage Score, it’s important that we put pressure on Governor Newsom to sign the few bills that actually did make it through.

It’s now up to Governor Newsom to sign a set of progressive bills that are on his desk and deliver on the mandate set by California voters who showed up for him.

Contact Governor Newsom and let him know that he must support progressives by passing critical legislation.