Monday marked the last day for California lawmakers to send Gov. Gavin Newsom bills for his signature. Extended rent relief, police reform, flavored tobacco and Assembly Bill 5 updates were among the topics that dominated in Sacramento this session.
To arrive at the end of the 2020 session was no easy feat, however. Lawmakers faced a two-month break brought forth by statewide stay-at-home orders, followed by record-breaking unemployment figures and a tumbling economy and, most recently, a very aggressive start to the wildfire season.
The clock ran out Monday, despite heated showdowns between Republicans and Democrats, with the Legislature ending its session just after 1 a.m. after each chamber worked through an estimated 100 bills.
Their adjournment came after nearly all Republican senators were required to vote remotely, because one of their colleagues tested positive for COVID-19. State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, had self-quarantined and announced Sunday he was “COVID-19-free.” Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, was also previously hospitalized after testing positive in July. He has recovered.
Here’s a look at some of the bills:
Extended rent relief
On Monday, Newsom signed Assembly Bill 3088, which aims to provide renters affected by the pandemic protections against evictions through February 2021 — a last-minute proposal that came as the state’s eviction ban was scheduled to end this week.
“Under the Tenant, Homeowner and Small Landlord Relief and Stabilization Act of 2020,”
renters will have to pay 25% of the rent amount owed between Sept. 1 and Jan. 31 to avoid being evicted in February. Landlords will be allowed to sue tenants for unpaid COVID-19 rental debt by March 1, according to the bill analysis.
Newsom announced Monday he had signed the bill.
“California is stepping up to protect those most at-risk because of COVID-related nonpayment, but it’s just a bridge to a more permanent solution once the federal government finally recognizes its role in stabilizing the housing market,” he said in a statement. “We need a real, federal commitment of significant new funding to assist struggling tenants and homeowners in California and across the nation.”
The majority of lawmakers whose districts include the Santa Clarita Valley voted in support of AB 3088, with Lackey casting a “no” vote.
Flavored tobacco ban
Just after it cleared the Legislature, Newsom signed Senate Bill 793 into law, which bans the sale of all flavored tobacco products and marks California as having some of the most rigid laws on said items.
From fruit flavors to menthol, SB 793 aims to reduce the number of youth consuming the products following 2019 reports that linked vaping to lung disease. The law prohibits “a tobacco retailer, or any of the tobacco retailer’s agents or employees, from selling, offering for sale, or possessing with the intent to sell or offer for sale, a flavored tobacco product or a tobacco product flavor enhancer,” and make a violation punishable by a fine of $250,” according to the bill.
The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, exempts hookah tobacco and cigarettes.
Los Angeles County on Oct. 1, 2019, imposed a ban on flavored tobacco in unincorporated territories, such as Stevenson Ranch and Castaic, based largely on health concerns, especially among youth. The city of Santa Clarita decided in November 2019 to extend a temporary ban on new sales of flavored tobacco products citywide through October. Businesses selling the products in the SCV have previously argued that the law affects small businesses and punishes adults who consume flavored tobacco.
SCV lawmakers voted in support of SB 793.
AB 5 update
AB 5, which reclassifies many independent contractors as employees, has been among the most controversial proposals that became law last year in Sacramento. It has echoed into 2020, with a handful of revisions for certain sectors.
The Legislature passed AB 2257 and AB 323 and the bills are now headed to Newsom’s desk for consideration.
AB 2257 would provide exemptions to workers such as fine artists, business consultants, translators, real estate appraisers and journalists. It would also offer additional exemptions to musicians, home inspectors, landscape architects, consulting services, competition judges and youth sports coaches. AB 323 was amended to grant newspapers one year, rather than two, to comply with the new labor standards for its delivery drivers.
Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, co-authored both bills and said Tuesday each “provide greater clarity and guidance for impacted industries,” ranging from translators to freelance journalists.
The passage of the two bills comes after several other bills proposed to bring exemptions were rejected or abandoned by the end of the session. Among them were two bills, SB 867 and 868, co-authored by State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, which specifically address the newspaper industry and freelance journalists by exempting them from AB 5.
Wilk said Thursday that, following the passage of AB 5, which “basically put a million independent contractors out of work in California,” the “Legislature will be trying to clean that up for years.”
Mortgage forbearance due to the health crisis, climate change efforts with a “Green New Deal,” and police reform, such as requiring law enforcement to intervene when officers use excessive force, did not make the 2020 cut.