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by Edelstein Gilbert Robson & Smith, LLC 

This was a busy week in Sacramento. The Legislature passed a budget, acted on several high-profile bills, and the Assembly adjourned for a summer recess. 

Oversight?

When the Legislature returned several weeks ago despite the guidance of public health officials to keep nonessential workers home, we explained that they intended to work on several “essential” issues: 

  • Providing oversight of the Governor’s response to COVID-19 
  • Responding to the pandemic 
  • Wildfires, PG&E bankruptcy, and power shutoffs 
  • Housing As of today, the Assembly is leaving for a summer recess. The Senate will leave on July 2. Both houses will return on July 13. 

Since returning in May, the Legislature has devoted considerable time to legislation on these issues. However, they have finished very little of their work, including on pandemic response. 

It is appropriate that the Legislature is taking its time to consider major legislation. However, they have provided very little oversight of the Governor’s activities. Informational hearings were scheduled early in May. Legislators criticized the Governor for failing to be transparent in how emergency funds and materials were distributed in the state to combat COVID-19. In particular, there was criticism of the Governor’s commitment to purchase personal protective equipment from a company with a questionable track record. Another deal entered into in March with a three day old company was quickly cancelled and the company in question is now the subject of an FBI investigation. 

While the Legislature was aggressive in their critique of these deals, they have not chosen to curtail the Governor’s authority to respond to COVID-19 or enter into contracts as part of that response. 

Budget

As we reported previously, on Monday the Legislature adopted a budget the Governor had not agreed to for the first time in nine years. While the budget satisfies the constitutional requirement to pass a balanced budget by June 15, negotiations with the Governor continue. 

The debate centers around whether the state should adopt the Governor’s proposed $14 billion in trigger cuts on July 1, or the Legislature’s proposal to adopt fewer cuts – many of which are triggered on October 1 – and rely more heavily on the state’s reserves, deferrals, and internal borrowing. 

The Governor and Legislature are expected to revisit the budget following July 15 when the state will have a firmer sense of tax receipts. The Governor could choose to sign the Legislature’s budget and simply revisit the situation when the Legislature returns in July and August. If a compromise is reached in the coming days and weeks, he could also veto the Legislature’s budget in which case the Assembly would have to return from its recess to adopt the compromise proposal. In fact, there is rumor that the Assembly plans to return to session next week to consider several budget trailer bills. 

Repeal of Proposition 209 and CSU Curriculum

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, several bills introduced earlier in the session to address racism and racial bias are moving forward quickly. In some instances, these efforts have transcended the normal politics of party affiliation and constituent pressure, forcing some legislators to draw on their own personal experiences and identity to make votes of conscience. 

24 years ago California voters approved Proposition 209 which ended affirmative action in California by prohibiting state and local governments from giving preferential treatment to individuals based on race or sex. ACA 5 (Weber), would place a measure on the November ballot asking voters to repeal Proposition 209. The Legislature has grappled with the repeal of Prop. 209 in the past. A 2014 effort stalled in the wake of aggressive lobbying by opponents who claimed that the reinstatement of affirmative action would limit college admissions for Asian American students. 

Those same concerns resurfaced last week during the two hour floor debate of ACA 5 in the Assembly. Assemblymember Evan Low acknowledged that he received thousands of communications from his constituents urging him to vote no on ACA 5 for similar reasons. Mr. Low nevertheless voted for ACA 5, calling it a vote of conscience. Two of his colleagues, Assemblymembers Chiu and Muratsuchi, acknowledged similar pressure from constituents, but joined Assemblymember Low in voting for ACA 5 which passed 60-14 and is now pending approval in the Senate. ACA 5 must pass by June 25 to be placed on the ballot. 

Meanwhile, the Senate considered AB 1460 (Weber) yesterday. AB 1460 would require undergraduate students at CSU campuses to complete a 3-unit course in ethnic studies before graduating. While most Republicans voted against the bill or abstained, Senator Ling Ling Chang, a Republican from Orange County, cast an aye vote for the bill. In doing so she noted her own personal experiences with racism on the campaign trail and expressed hope that a new education requirement would help combat ignorance that can lead to racism. 

About Edelstein Gilbert Robson & Smith, LLC

Since 1985, Edelstein Gilbert Robson & Smith LLC has been providing effective and aggressive representation on a wide variety of issues on behalf of a diverse mix of clients. Visit us online at https://www.edelsteingilbert.com/