By CalMatters Staff
It’s California’s most diverse Legislature ever, and one-fourth of lawmakers are new. But some things never change: Legislators wait until the last days of the session to pass a lot of bills.
In the final push, they sent Gov. Gavin Newsom some significant legislation — to tax guns and ammunition, ban caste discrimination and decriminalize some psychedelic drugs. And before they finished nearly seven months of lawmaking late Sept. 14, legislators approved many more bills. Of the more than 2,600 introduced, the most in a decade, about 900 are on Newsom’s desk.
He finished on Oct. 13, a day before his deadline to sign or veto the final batch. By the time he cleared his desk, he vetoed 156 bills and signed 890. Last year, he vetoed 169, or about 14%, while signing 997, including some very significant ones. The Legislature can override vetoes, if the bill’s backers can win two-thirds majorities in both the Assembly and Senate. But that doesn’t happen often, and in recent decades almost never.
Some significant measures ought to be to Newsom’s liking: He has become more assertive in pushing his priorities in the Legislature — climate change last year, infrastructure and mental health this year.
Over the coming days, as 2023 draws to a close, The Signal will present CalMatters’ wrap-up stories on some of the key bills that reached the governor’s desk at the close of the 2023 legislative session. Below is the first of that series:
SB 525 to increase pay for health care workers
By Ana B. Ibarra
Senate Bill 525 by Sen. María Elena Durazo, a Los Angeles Democrat, would raise the minimum wage for California’s lowest paid health workers to $25 an hour. This raise would apply to employees such as nursing assistants, medical techs and janitorial workers. The pay boost would be phased in over the next several years.
How soon employees would see the $25 hourly rate depends on the type of health facility they work in. Workers at dialysis clinics and large health systems, for example, would reach $25 by 2026, while employees at rural hospitals would have to wait 10 years for the same rate.
Who Supports It
The bill is sponsored by SEIU California. After much negotiation and amendments, the union reached an agreement with health care employers, which initially opposed the bill. Now hospitals and clinics are also in support.
In exchange, the union agreed to a 10-year moratorium on local measures that aim to increase compensation for medical workers. Also, for four years, the union will not take any dialysis-related measures to the ballot.
Who Is Opposed
The Valley Industry & Commerce Association, a business advocacy group in Los Angeles County, remained in opposition even after amendments. The group argues that it is unfair to push for raises based on type of employment. The bill “does not uplift or promote greater economic security for our state,” the group wrote.
Why It Matters
The wage hike is expected to benefit an estimated 469,000 employees, including people who make slightly more than $25 but who would likely get a corresponding pay increase, according to an analysis by UC Berkeley’s Labor Center.
A boost in pay could help these workers get closer to livable wages, but it’s also considered a key piece in improving retention and attracting new hires for the industry as health facilities across the state face critical staffing shortages. The statewide minimum wage for all workers increases to $16 an hour on Jan. 1.
Governor’s Call: Newsom signed the bill on Oct. 13.