SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds of bills await action by California lawmakers as the Legislature begins its last week of business this year.
Many of the year’s highest-profile issues have already been settled, including a gas tax hike and cap-and-trade program to address climate change. But other priorities, including housing, immigration and renewable energy still need action.
Lawmakers take a three-month break beginning Friday and will return in January.
Here’s a look at some of the hottest issues left on the agenda:
California requires electric utilities to get half of their energy from renewable sources by 2030 — a policy credited with helping the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions despite a growing economy by expanding solar and wind energy.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, is promoting a bill to boost the 2030 target to 60 percent renewables, along with milestones along the way. SB100 would also tell utilities to come up with plans to become fully carbon-free by 2045.
The bill has passed the Senate and is the subject of last-minute wrangling in the Assembly.
CAP AND TRADE MONEY
A long list of lobbyists and interest groups has lined up to convince lawmakers they deserve a piece of more than $1 billion of money generated by California’s cap-and-trade program to address climate change.
Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed spending $1.5 billion to, among other things, reduce air pollution, promote electric cars and clean trucks, cut agricultural emissions and prevent forest fires.
Lawmakers have their own priorities. De Leon, for example, is pushing for a multi-year spending plan to reduce diesel emissions.
Among the other ideas: expanding mass transit, reducing woodstoves and diverting organic waste from landfills.
UTILITY REGULATOR VOTES
The Senate still hasn’t voted on whether to confirm Brown’s two recent nominees to a powerful commission that regulates privately owned natural gas, electric, water and other utilities.
Cliff Rechtschaffen and Martha Guzman Aceves began serving on the five-member Public Utilities Commission in January. But the Senate has until January 2018 to confirm them. It’s unclear if a vote will happen this week.
The two nominees faced tough questions from a committee about the PUC’s poor public reputation following environmental disasters and other scandals. Critics of Rechtschaffen say he is too cozy with the oil and gas industry.
Senate President Pro Tem de Leon said he has more questions for both commissioners, but his office hasn’t said when and how he plans to ask them.
Legislative leaders also have not brought up a promised package of bills to address the state’s housing shortage.
The package is likely to include a $4 billion bond for affordable housing and veteran home loans as well as a fee on real-estate transaction documents and to streamline building regulations. But details of the deal’s full scope are still absent.
It’s an uphill battle to convince two-thirds of the Legislature to support one of the most controversial measures, the fee on real-estate documents that would generate hundreds of millions of dollars per year to fund affordable housing. Some moderate Democrats have expressed reservations about the provision.
The housing funding bills could become more difficult to pass next year, when lawmakers will face more scrutiny ahead of 2018 elections.
Lawmakers have one week left to pass the so-called sanctuary state bill, which would restrict state and local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.
The bill has passed the Senate but faces a tougher test in the more moderate Assembly.
Democrats have flagged it as particularly important since the Trump administration’s recent announcement that it is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives temporary protection to immigrants living illegally in the United States who were brought to the country as children.
A pair of bills aims to treat child offenders more leniently than adults, including a measure that would prohibit sentencing juveniles to life without parole.
Also left is a measure that would restrict police from cooperating with federal authorities to enforce some federal marijuana laws. California legalized recreational cannabis last year, but the federal government still considers it illegal.
A bill that would limit employers from asking about prior criminal convictions on job applications and one to make it easier for prisoners to ask for a gender or name change are still on the agenda.
The Assembly is likely to vote on a bill that would require drug makers to provide advanced warning before big price increases.
The bill’s proponents — including labor unions, consumer advocates and health insurers — hope the required disclosure will discourage companies from making sudden and massive increases in prices, which would be sure to grab headlines. They say it would give drug buyers time to prepare.
The pharmaceutical industry is aggressively fighting the bill, warning that it will lead to drug shortages if drug buyers stockpile medicines before the price rises.
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