PD Editorial: Thumbs up, thumbs down

An editorial board assessment of some of the bills signed and vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.|

California lawmakers churn out hundreds of bills every year. This year, according to a summary published in the Nooner, a political newsletter covering state politics, state senators introduced 792 bills. Assembly members introduced 1,833 bill, for a total of 2,625. Of those, 1,042 made their way to Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk.

Had he signed them all, California would have added about three new laws to the books for every day of the year.

Newsom, who had until Sunday to act on legislation, signed 870 bills and vetoed 172.

That's a lot of legalese to digest. We wonder if he's ever read a book by former state Sen. H.L. Richardson titled “What Makes You Think We Read the Bills?” We certainly didn't read them all, but here are some quick takes on Newsom's decisions on some of the proposals we've been following.

Thumbs up for:

- Vetoing Senate Bill 263 by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, which would have obscured the cost of local bond measures. Under a law enacted in 2017, local governments and school districts must include the estimated increase in property taxes in the ballot summary of bond measures. SB 263 would have allowed them to bury it in the fine print of the ballot pamphlet.

- Signing Assembly Bill 1699 by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, which prohibits mobile internet service providers from limiting access to first responders during an emergency. We never would have guessed this could happen - until it did. Verizon throttled access for firefighters battling the Mendocino Complex fire in 2018.

- Signing SB 209 by state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, which directs the state Office of Emergency Services and Cal Fire to establish a wildfire forecast and threat intelligence center to gather, analyze and disseminate information to first responders and utilities.

After last week, it's clear the more (and more accurate) information about red-flag weather is needed. But preemptive outage decisions remain in the hands of utility companies. That may be a good subject for next year.

- Signing AB 218 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, extends the statute of limitations for reporting childhood sexual assault and filing lawsuits from the time a victim is age 26 to age 40. The bill also opens a three-year window for the revival of claims that have expired.

- Signing SB 328 by state Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, which requires most high schools to push their starting time back to 8:30 a.m. by the start of the 2022-23 school year. Supporters, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the California Parent Teacher Association, point to studies concluding that adolescents perform better in school if they're able to sleep a little later in the morning.

Thumbs down for:

- Signing AB 5, by Gonzalez, which drastically restricts the ability of people to work as independent contractors, potentially forcing thousands of people out of gig work jobs they don't want to give up. The bill includes numerous exemptions, and it's a near certainty that many people and industries will be in Sacramento next year seeking additional exemptions.

- Vetoing SB 531 by state Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, which would have prohibited the increasingly common practice of cities and counties offering a share of local sales tax revenue - you might call it a kickback - to companies in return for opening a distribution center or just designating them as the point of sale for online orders. A more equitable model, as noted by the nonpartisan legislative analyst, would be to distribute the local share of online sales tax revenue on a per capita basis.

Newsom also signed a bill allowing Californians to eat roadkill. We're not sure what to think about that, so we'll just politely decline the invitation and find something more appetizing for dinner.

You can send a letter to the editor at letters@pressdemocrat.com.

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