Democratic leaders at the California State Capitol quashed nearly 300 bills on Thursday in the ritually rapid removal of legislation in a mysterious “thriller filing.”
Officially, the suspension record is a tool for legislative leaders to evaluate costly bills by weighing them against each other and deciding what gets voted on by the Senate and House. . Informally, it is used as a way for Democrats in control of the Legislature to remove controversial bills with little fingerprints.
Sometimes the underlying cost is to blame. Other times, bills die in suspense because Democratic leaders want to protect ordinary members from taking positions publicly. Often, bills die in suspense records with no explanation.
Silently failing bills include proposals that could benefit low-income children, further restrict gun ownership and help some renters cover the growing cost of living. .
Why is this happening?
California legislators typically introduce about 2,000 bills a year, so the deferred filing is one way to shrink the bill pile. The Senate places bills on hold if they cost the state at least $50,000, and Congress places them there if they cost at least $150,000. Then, twice a year, the allocation committees decide who will live to see another day.
“The role of the appropriations committee is to review bills, weigh costs and benefits, and weigh them,” said Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, who leads the 2016-2021 Appropriations Committee. that with our overall financial situation.
But there’s also a political element: Dismissing a bill by leaving it on file means most lawmakers don’t have to vote on it, saving them from having to make a difficult decision. towel.
What’s different this year?
After years of big budgets, California is facing a deficit that Governor Gavin Newsom has created estimated at 31.5 billion USD. With money tight, legislators face pressure to shelve high-priced bills.
“It’s another time where we have to operate,” Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), chair of the Council’s Appropriations Committee, said of the budget deficit after Thursday’s hearing.
One bill dead would cost $10 million to $15 million a year to allow many people wrongly convicted of crimes to seek restitution from the state once they are exonerated. Another bill would ban the state from collect child support interest it’s debt with a cost of at least $18 million, depending on the amount collected from the parent.
Are anti-poverty programs successful?
Correct. Although Democratic leaders defended much of the state’s social safety net, they rejected proposals to extend the tax credit to low-income Californians.
That includes bills that will provide extra cash for renters and families with children.
The California Early Childhood Tax Credit allows eligible families with children under age 6 to receive up to $1,000. AB 1128, by Councilmember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), would remove that age limit, allowing more than 1 million eligible children of all ages to benefit.
Santiago said in a statement that he will push for a $700 million state budget to make it happen because families across California deserve relief against inflation so they can pay for their needs. necessities such as food and rent.
Other poverty measures that have failed include a bill that would increase minimum payments to families under the California Earned Income Tax Credit and a Republican bill to increase the credits. tax use for tenants – the law has repeatedly failed in the past despite a subsidy regime that has stagnated for decades.
Frustrated advocates have urged the state to fill in the gaps left by federal programs that were launched during the pandemic and have since expired.
“Of course we all know about budget forecasting. However, these dollars are an investment not only for families but also for communities and the local economy,” said Teri Olle, California campaign manager for the Economic Security Action Project. .
What about gun control?
After the mass shooting in Monterey Park in January left 11 people dead, lawmakers responded with a new wave of gun control laws.
Most of those bills were advanced, except for two proposed by Councilmember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino), who leads the Legislature’s Gun Violence Working Group.
The first will allow people with mental health crises who are at risk of suicide to voluntarily add their names to the “do not sell” list. The other would bar someone with a domestic violence protection order who filed a case against them from buying or owning a firearm for another three years after the order expires.
“I was a bit caught off guard,” said Gabriel, adding that the two bills are “important pieces of the puzzle” addressing gun violence because they aim to address the impact of suicide and violence against women. Family force for gun deaths.
Pause police reform
In 2020, Congressman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) won the movement to limit police shootings when he passed legislation requiring the state Department of Justice to Investigate the shooting death of an unarmed civilian.
McCarty tried to expand that law this year to include all incidents of police fatality, including those resulting in the death of an armed person and cases of police use lethal force other than firearms, such as overshooting or strangulation.
But state agencies have lags in moving through its caseload. Since the law went into effect in 2021, investigators have closed only two cases, with dozens more people in the queue.
The Justice Department estimates the additional investigations proposed in McCarty’s bill will cost “hundreds of millions of dollars” and require an additional 632 employees.
McCarty said the bill would create a “clear loophole” in efforts to investigate the deadly incidents.
“That’s still what I’m committed to,” McCarty said. “I think ultimately we need to investigate all police-related shootings independently outside of the local jurisdiction, preferably by the attorney general.”
A victory for fossil fuels
Oil and gas companies won when the Senate Appropriations Committee dropped a bill that would hold them accountable for health problems experienced by people living near wells and drilling projects.
Environmentalists support this measure, But one financial analysis estimates that decommissioning oil and gas wells could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
State Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) said: “Today, we missed an important opportunity to advance legislation that holds polluters accountable and prevents further harm to with families trying to stay healthy and have a better quality of life. in a statement.