California legislators revisit failed bills

Sen. Steven Bradford speaks during the first day of session at the state Capitol on Jan. 3, 2024. Photo by Fred Greaves for CalMatters

While Day 2 of the California Legislature’s 2024 session wasn’t as eventful as the first, legislators wasted no time introducing new bills or revising measures that didn’t pass last year.

Among the noteworthy put in the hopper Thursday: 

Elections: To avoid another “Fong fiasco,” Assembly elections committee chairperson Gail Pellerin, a Santa Cruz Democrat, authored a measure to prohibit a person from filing nomination documents for more than one office at the same election. In the same vein, Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, a Los Angeles Democrat, introduced a bill that establishes when a candidate files to run for a second office, they automatically withdraw their candidacy from the first office.

Quick recap: The bill is in response to the recent court battles of Assemblymember Vince Fong. In December, the Republican from Bakersfield filed paperwork to run for both his state Assembly seat in 2024 as well as for Congress to succeed former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Despite state election officials rejecting his candidacy for Congress, a ruling by a Sacramento County Superior Court judge has allowed him to run in multiple races. The judge appeared to suggest the need for a fix, ruling that while “it somewhat defies common sense to find the law permits a candidate to run for two offices during the same election,” she was “compelled to interpret the law as it is written by the Legislature.”

Gun violence: Democratic Sens. Nancy Skinner of Oakland and Catherine Blakespear of Encinitas introduced a bill to strengthen the state’s red flag law, which authorizes law enforcement to confiscate firearms from individuals who have a gun violence restraining order against them, and pose a danger to themselves or others. The new proposal requires courts to follow-up with individuals — not just those involved in domestic violence incidents — to ensure they relinquish their firearms properly.

Public transportation: Saying that there “is no reason for there to be 27 public transit agencies for just the Bay Area,” Democratic Sen. Aisha Wahab of Fremont gut-and-amended a bill about electric vehicles into legislation that aims to consolidate the various public transit agencies operating across nine counties in the San Francisco Bay area. With several transit agencies across California struggling to avoid a “fiscal cliff,” some officials, including BART Board President Janice Li, view consolidation as a key step towards stability.

Cannabis: In October, Gov. Gavin Newsom blocked a bill to legalize “cannabis cafes” — where retailers can sell regular food and drinks to customers — arguing that it would undermine the state’s “long-standing smoke-free workplace protections.” Now Assemblymember Matt Haney, a Democrat from San Francisco and author of that bill, is trying again. In a statement Thursday, Haney announced he was reintroducing the measure to allow “businesses where smoking (cannabis) is already happening to sell coffee and food…”

Stay tuned and read this newsletter as more bills are introduced, as lawmakers have until Feb. 16 to introduce new measures.

Compared to Wednesday’s session — which had to adjourn early due to demonstrators inside the Assembly chamber calling for a ceasefire in Gaza — Thursday’s convening was undramatic. Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas did address the protests, however, telling legislators that “this is a difficult moment for our communities… and for everyone around the world,” according to Politico

Rivas also told his colleagues that climate change, crime and housing are at the top of his priority list in his first full session in charge.

Meanwhile, Gov. Newsom, who has declined Republicans’ call for a special session to deal with the budget deficit, is being urged by fellow Democrat, Sen. Steve Glazer of Orinda, to convene a concurrent special session to focus on homelessness.

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