California recall reform moves forward, but other bills don’t

From left to right: Assemblymembers Eloise Gómez Reyes, Christopher Ward and Jacqui Irwin talk during a floor session of the Assembly at the Capitol in Sacramento on Jan. 22, 2024. Photo by Fred Greaves for CalMatters

A sweeping change to California elections took a big step forward Thursday — a measure to revise statewide recalls. 

For Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2021 recall election, voters were faced with two questions on the ballot: Should the governor be recalled? And if he is recalled, who should replace him? 

But the proposed constitutional amendment, which passed the Senate on a 31-7 vote and now heads to the Assembly, aims to get rid of that second question. Introduced by Democratic Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton, the measure would allow the lieutenant governor to be installed if a governor is recalled. 

By doing so, it would prevent recall campaigns from being hijacked for “political opportunism and gamesmanship,” Newman said in a statement, and prevent a candidate who didn’t receive a majority of the votes from becoming governor. 

After the failed 2021 recall, there was an immediate push to change the rules, but the momentum had evaporated, until this week. If it gets through the Legislature, the amendment would go before voters in November.  

As a constitutional amendment, this measure wasn’t subject to Wednesday’s deadline for bills introduced in 2023 to pass their first chamber. But a bushel were — and some didn’t make it.  

Media access: A measure to make real-time police radio communications accessible to the press and public died Tuesday. The author of the bill, Democratic Sen. Josh Becker of Menlo Park, said it would help residents prepare for emergencies related to shootings, crashes and natural disasters. But some law enforcement groups opposed the bill due to costs, officer safety and logistical issues. Another bill to ensure press accessibility to state prisons — such as tours and in-person interviews with prisoners — did pass, however.

Youth tackle football: Assemblymember Kevin McCarty’s contentious bill to ban kids age six and under (amended from 12 when it was originally introduced) from playing tackle football didn’t reach the goal line. The Democrat from Sacramento received pushback from parental rights groups, citing government overreach, as well as Newsom who said he would veto the measure.

Campaign contributions: Though foreign governments, parties and companies are already banned from directly donating to federal, state and local elections, a bill to bar “foreign influenced” U.S. companies from contributing to California elections “will not be moving forward in the legislative process,” said the office of Assemblymember Alex Lee, a Milpitas Democrat and author of the proposal.

Hydrogen production: Assemblymember Steve Bennett’s bill to further regulate hydrogen production, including a mandate that all hydrogen produced or used in California for electric vehicles be from renewable energy resources by 2045, has been nixed. The bill from the Oxnard Democrat faced strong opposition from industry and labor lobbyists, reports Politico.

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