In California Legislature, 500 bills beat the deadline

Assemblymember Jasmeet Bains and other legislators on the assembly floor in the state Capitol in Sacramento on Jan. 19, 2023. Photo by Rahul Lal, CalMatters

California doesn’t really need 2,600 new laws, right? 

Nevertheless, state lawmakers proposed 500 new bills on Friday, the 2023 session’s introduction deadline, bringing the total to about 2,600. That’s the most in more than a decade, according to veteran Capitol lobbyist Chris Micheli. More than 1,000 are “placeholder” bills without specific language. Reminder: More bills are typically introduced in odd-numbered years, the first year of the Legislature’s two-year sessions.

Last year, when about 2,000 bills were introduced, the Legislature passed almost 1,200 of them — and nearly 1,000 became law with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature, including ones on wage transparency and housing.  

Some of the new bills tackle California’s hot-button issues. Assembly Bill 3 by new Assemblymember Jasmeet Bains, a Democrat from Bakersfield, would increase oil production in California just as the state aims to scale back fossil fuels to battle climate change. Her bill, proposed in the special session called by Gov. Gavin Newsom on an oil profits penalty, would require 60% of all crude oil refined in California to be produced in the state in 2030 and 50% in 2035. California now produces only about 30% of its crude oil, while the rest is imported from South America, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Sen. Dave Min, a Democrat from Costa Mesa, introduced Senate Bill 559 to end offshore oil drilling in California’s waters.

Another hot topic: the fentanyl crisis, which has spurred nearly two dozen bills introduced since December. Last week, bills were introduced by Republican Assemblymember Jim Patterson, from Fresno, and Democratic Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua, from Stockton. Both bills seek to increase the penalties for selling the drug. And Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, a Democrat from Oakland, introduced SB 287, which would make social media platforms liable for promoting the illegal sale of fentanyl to minors. 

Here are a handful of other key bills introduced last week to beat the deadline:

Housing and homelessness 

Health care

Workers’ rights

  • SB 497, by Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas, from Los Angeles: Strengthens protections for workers from retaliation by employers;
  • SB 525, by Sen. María Elena Durazo, also from Los Angeles: Revives the effort to increase the minimum wage for some healthcare workers to $25 an hour; 
  • AB 1672 by San Francisco Assemblymember Matt Haney: Creates a framework to address labor disputes between employee organizations who represent independent in-home caregivers and the state.

From CalMatters California Divide reporter Jeanne Kuang:

Bay Area fast food workers march in downtown San Francisco on Nov. 15, 2022. They demanded that industry leaders drop efforts to overturn Assembly Bill 257 and negotiate to find solutions to longstanding issues within the industry. Photo by Aaron Rosenblatt for CalMatters

Fast food fight: With a landmark law to regulate wages and working conditions in the fast food industry on hold until voters decide its fate in November 2024, California lawmakers will try again to hold franchise chains, including McDonald’s and Burger King, responsible for alleged labor violations in their restaurants. 

Assemblymember Chris Holden, a Pasadena Democrat, introduced Assembly Bill 1228 to establish joint labor law liability for fast food franchise owners. Last year, he agreed to strip it out of his fast food bill to sway detractors in the Legislature. CalMatters found that joint liability in other industries — such as extending legal responsibility from janitorial and gardening contractors to the companies that hire them — has been a key part of California’s efforts to combat wage theft and other labor violations. 

But fast food franchise corporations have long avoided liability in federal and state labor law. Labor advocates say the current business model allows these companies to squeeze profits from franchise locations while distancing themselves from how employees are treated. Franchise and business groups say extending liability would upend the franchise owners’ independence as employers. The International Franchise Association released a statement saying the bill would cause business opportunities to dry up in California. 

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