Shane Clary, Ph.D.
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Here is the latest update the legislative update from Sacramento from Edelstein Gilbert Robson & Sith, CAA’s lobbyist regarding activity in the Capitol.

This week, Governor Newsom announced the opening of new testing facilities and the receipt of new testing supplies. The Governor has a goal of eventually being able to test 80,000 Californians per day. As of this week, they are hoping to hit the 25,000 test per day mark by the end of April. The Governor continues to give no indicator of when the stay at home order will be lifted and insists that the decision has to be based on science and data.

As you know, the Legislature has been in recess for nearly six weeks. Usually by this time of year the Legislature is dominating political headlines by conducting multiple hearings a day for thousands of bills and at the same time working through the state’s budget. For the past six weeks, however, all eyes have been on the Governor. With tens of thousands of people tuning in to watch his press conferences live every day, and more catching him in other media outlets later, Governor Newsom has never enjoyed such constant presence in the public eye.

At the same time, the Governor’s nearly unlimited power under the California Emergency Services Act has left the Governor no need to consult with the Legislature during the crisis. The Act allows the Governor to suspend virtually any law or regulation he chooses during a state of emergency. Facing a statewide crisis, the Governor has wielded this power to shutter businesses, alter court proceedings, suspend evictions, make it easier to qualify for social safety net programs, alter employment law, and make many other changes. He has, for example, used his authority to bend scope of practice rules which stipulate the types of care medical professionals can provide based on their licensing and education. Usually, even minor proposed changes to scope of practice go nowhere in the Legislature and result in years of fighting.

While Governor Newsom continues to get high marks from experts and the public, legislators are beginning to bristle at having to live in his shadow. Some legislators have complained that the Governor and his staff are not responsive to questions about resource deliveries and state services in their districts. Others have noted that they receive virtually no warning from the Governor about new Executive Orders, only learning about them minutes before they are released to the public.

By far the most serious complaints of legislators revolve around the Governor’s choice to execute a contract for $1.4 billion worth of personal protective equipment. This enormous contract has been negotiated without consultation with the Legislature. It also includes an agreement to purchase supplies from BYD, a Chinese owned company with a record of providing faulty equipment. The same week that the Governor announced this deal on national television, the Assembly and Senate scheduled budget oversight hearings on the Administration’s efforts to combat COVID-19. While legislators were careful to compliment the Governor on his handling of the crisis, there was also bipartisan criticism on issues related to distribution of supplies and resources, and on his contract for PPE.

The growing tension may also be driving the desire of the Legislature to get back into the fray. Members in both the Assembly and Senate have amended several bills to address aspects of the COVID-19 crisis. In some cases, these bills address issues already resolved in Executive Orders, indicating that some legislators may want to revisit the Governor’s work. Originally scheduled to return on April 13, the Legislature opted to delay until May 4 for public health reasons.

Based on what we have heard, the Assembly intends to return sooner rather than later and have directed their staff to prepare for their return on May 4. The Senate seems more reluctant to get ahead of state and county shelter in place orders. It is possible that the two houses will compromise and return later than May 4, but still ahead of June.

Regardless of their return date, we expect an expedited and, frankly, rushed process for vetting bills that allows limited opportunity for public input. The Legislature’s track record on laws enacted with limited review and limited public input is poor. It is possible each house will give itself as little as a month to hear bills in policy committee, fiscal committee, and on their respective floors before turning them over to the other house for consideration.

Given that none of this has been announced publicly, the details are likely to change in the coming days and weeks. Before making this decision, legislative leadership must carefully weigh public reaction to their return, frustration with a limited public process, and the moral and possibly legal liability associated with calling their staff and stakeholders back into the Capitol despite public orders to socially distance and shelter in place.

We will keep you apprised of further developments.

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.