Immigration, health care bills advance in California
June 3, 2017
Updated: June 3, 2017 10:26am
Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, AP
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Efforts to resist President Donald Trump’s border wall, create a government-run health care system and tackle a statewide housing shortage have cleared a major hurdle in the California Legislature.
Trump’s vow to build a wall on the country’s Mexico border, much of which would run through California, has drawn particular ire from lawmakers. The state shouldn’t do business with companies that work on the project, which is harmful to immigrant families and the environment, said Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Bell Gardens Democrat who authored the bill, SB30.
Lawmakers also advanced measures to train defense attorneys on immigration law and protect college students from federal immigration officials. Another would bar employers from letting federal immigration agents access their worksites and files without a warrant or subpoena, an effort to prevent raids.
Republicans charge the measures are designed to score political points rather than enact good policy. They characterize some of the proposals, including the border wall bill, as overreaching. Republican Sen. Jeff Stone said state shouldn’t blacklist companies bidding on a lucrative contract.
Also moving forward are measures to prohibit local governments from contracting with private prisons to detain immigrants, and to reduce using false documents to conceal immigration status from a felony to misdemeanor.
A massive health care overhaul that would replace insurance companies with a government-funded system for all Californians has passed the Senate, leaving the Assembly to figure out how to pay for it.
Proponents of SB562 say redirecting existing health care spending would cover most of the universal system. But the state would need to generate as much as $100 billion in new taxes and secure approval from Washington to redirect federal health care money.
Bills aimed at reducing pharmaceutical drug costs are also advancing.
Bail reform faces an uncertain future, with the Assembly rejecting one bill and the Senate passing another.
Under the bills, a judge would take into account a defendant’s income and threat to public safety when deciding whether to impose bail as a condition of release. Proponents say the current system disproportionately hurts poor defendants.
“The determining factor to any pretrial release should not be the size of your wallet,” said Sen. Bob Hertzberg, a Van Nuys Democrat who authored the Senate bill, SB10. “It should be the size of your risk to society.”
Opponents argue bail is an important tool to pressure people to show up for court and help keep criminals locked up. It’s unclear how Hertzberg’s bill will fair in the Assembly.
A proposal that would bar suspending drivers’ licenses as a penalty for not paying traffic fines is moving forward. And both chambers support blocking employers from using arrest records to immediately screen out job applicants.
An Assembly-passed bill says state and local police won’t have to help enforce federal anti-marijuana laws that conflict with California’s decision to legalize the drug.
The Assembly voted to keep state and local police from helping enforce federal anti-marijuana laws that conflict with state law. Californians who legally operate shops selling marijuana, for example, would be shielded from detainment or arrest by state or local police unless they are issued a court order.
Federal law still prohibits marijuana use, and lawmakers aren’t sure how Trump’s administration will deal with states that have legalized marijuana.
Lawmakers also advanced bills aimed at shielding children from accessing marijuana.
California lawmakers took steps to fix the state’s affordable housing shortage by passing bills to speed construction and generate money for subsidized housing.
An estimated 1.5 million California families lack access to affordable housing. The state also has disproportionately high homelessness rates.
One of the bills, SB35, removes some development restrictions in cities that fall behind on housing production goals. Another, AB73, rewards cities for streamlining the approval of housing, particularly for developments near public transportation.
The Senate also voted to put a $3 billion bond to fund affordable housing on the ballot.
Although lawmakers agree they need to address the state’s housing shortage, there’s no consensus on which approach to take.
Senate Republicans argued the state can’t afford another bond, which borrows money that must be paid back. Another point of contention is whether lawmakers should regulate how much workers constructing new housing projects are paid. Opponents say requiring builders to pay higher wages to workers will drive up housing costs.
Lawmakers passed a bill by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber that would give public school teachers three years to earn a permanent status designation known as tenure. The current two-year process is too short and not flexible enough, said Weber, a San Diego Democrat.
Another bill would prohibit for-profit organizations from operating charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run.
Lawmakers also approved measures to make the first year of community college free for California residents and to ban schools from shaming students with lunch debt.
Associated Press writers Jonathan J. Cooper and Don Thompson contributed to this report.