California Reopens: Legislative Update

People crossing road in California
Edelstein Gilbert Robson & Smith

Last Wednesday the Secretary of State sent a letter to the Department of Finance (DOF) that among other things said “The Secretary of State is hereby notifying the Department of Finance that the proponents of the recall effort against Governor Gavin Newsom have submitted a sufficient number of valid signatures to initiate a recall election.”

The Secretary of State was able to send this letter because last Wednesday marked the deadline for Californians to withdraw their signatures from the recall petitions. A whopping 43 out of 1.7 million did so. None of this is surprising. We have reported for months that the recall proponents had enough signatures to qualify the election. Voters were never going to be convinced to withdraw their signatures and the Governor’s team didn’t invest in the effort.

The DOF now has 30 days to analyze the cost of the recall election and submit an estimate to the Legislature. The Legislature then has 30 days to review the estimate. That could easily be truncated as the DOF already has an estimate and the Legislature has already agreed to allocate additional funding to counties to cover the cost of the election. Once the review periods have ended, the Lieutenant Governor must set an election date 60-80 days later. Counties have indicated that the earliest feasible date for the recall election is October 14.

Winding Down the Pandemic

In theory, California has reopened and is winding down the various requirements we have all lived under since March. However, some protections enacted at the beginning of the pandemic are proving harder to let go of.

For example, in one form or another, property owners have been subject to moratoriums on eviction since the beginning of the pandemic. In January, the Legislature and the Governor extended eviction protections through June 30 and  appropriated $2.6 billion in federal relief funding intended to erase unpaid rent before the moratorium expired. To date, over 50,000 households have requested $687.8 million in aid. The state has distributed just $61 million in aid thus far. Proponents of the moratorium hope to see it extended to provide more time for money to get out the door. The Governor announced Friday that he and the Legislature have reached agreement on an extension through September 30.

The same dynamic is playing out on a number of high and low profile issues. Local governments have had the ability to hold meetings virtually since March 2020. That authority was just extended through September 30. Yesterday the California Public Utilities Commission extended the moratorium on service disconnections for customers of the state’s privately owned utilities. The Governor already extended the moratorium for water service disconnections earlier this month.

The Budget

We have previously reported that between a General Fund windfall and an influx of cash from the Federal Government, the state is enjoying what amounts to a $100 billion surplus. Two weeks ago, the Legislature passed a massive $267 billion budget.

While the Legislature passed this budget, it has not been signed by the Governor yet. Interestingly, this is exactly what legislators expected when they voted on the budget. While passing a budget allows the Legislature to meet its constitutional deadline to pass a budget by June 15 or forfeit their pay, in reality, final agreement between the Senate, Assembly, and Governor was not reached until late last week.

However, the newly agreed upon $262 billion budget may not be entirely different. For example, towards the end of the nearly thousand page budget bill is an appropriation of $2.5 billion for a number of items including drought relief, climate resilience, and more. The entire appropriation is contingent upon enactment of future legislation, meaning the money is going nowhere at all until a final agreement is reached on exactly how to use it. There are numerous other examples of unresolved issues for which the Governor, Senate, and Assembly have agreed only on a dollar amount, no specifics. So while the new compromise budget will be passed and signed into law early this week, in some cases it will still be subject to future wrangling and revision.

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About The California Alarm Association

The California Alarm Association develops and manages programs to benefit members and to promote the growth of professionalism in the electronic security industry throughout the state of California. We exist to serve our members and associates by being the industry advocate and liaison with public safety agencies, government bureaus, and licensing, standards and regulation bodies.