These include the most contentious housing bill in the current package: state Sen. Scott Wiener's Senate Bill 423, which modifies and extends Senate Bill 35, the 2017 law that creates an expedited approval process for residential developments in jurisdictions that have failed to meet their housing mandates.
The Palo Alto City Council debated SB 423 last week and voted 4-3 to file a letter of opposition to the bill, which advanced after legislators resolved a dispute over labor standards for eligible projects and agreed to extend rather than eliminate the legislation's sunset date. Under the revised proposal, the bill will sunset on Jan. 1, 2036, and its labor provisions would be limited to mixed-use projects over 85 feet tall.
Peninsula lawmakers also scored key victories, with state Sen. Josh Becker, D-San Mateo, seeing 14 bills advance through the Senate Appropriations Committee.
These include numerous bills relating to clean energy and climate change: SB 420, which seeks to speed up the approval process for electricity transmission projects by setting a deadline for environmental reviews of these projects; SB 410, which seeks to shorten the time it takes electric utilities to connect customers to service by requiring Public Utilities Commission to set a target timeline for projects; and SB 49, which would require the Department of Transportation to develop a plan for making its unused land available for solar projects.
"Appropriations is an important and difficult step in our process, especially in a year with a budget deficit," Becker said in a statement after the votes. "As such, I was happy to see fourteen of my bills advance. I know some of them will have tough roads ahead, and I'm excited to work on those bills."
One Becker bill that will not advance this year is SB 719, which would require law enforcement agencies throughout California to grant public access to their radio communications. The bill, which responds to the recent trend of sheriff and police departments encrypting their radio transmissions, was turned into a two-year bill, making it eligible for reconsideration in the next legislative session.
Palo Alto removed encryption from its radio communications voluntarily last year and submitted a letter of support for SB 719.
"For those that were made two-year bills today, like our police radio two-year bill, we will have a chance to continue to build the coalition, and we'll keep looking at the ones that didn't make it through so we can continue to address these issues," Becker said.
Assembly member Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park, also saw numerous bills advance through the Assembly Appropriation Committee, including AB 1598, which requires the Department of Justice to provider more information about firearms hazards in its "firearms safety certificate" program and to develop a pamphlet about the benefits and risks of owning a firearm that would be provided to each firearm buyer.
Palo Alto officially supported both AB 1598 and Senate Bill 2, a proposal from Sen. Anthony Portantino that updates the state's concealed carry laws and identifies "sensitive places" where guns are not allowed. SB 2 also cleared the Appropriations Committee last week.
Another Berman bill that got through on May 18 was AB 1054, his proposal to require all school boards to adopt plans for offering computer science education to their high school students by the 2027-2028 school year. In introducing the bill last February, Berman touted it as one that would "begin to restore California as a leader and ... equip our students with the skills they need to succeed in tomorrow's digitally driven world."
Also advancing was AB 578, a Berman bill that would set a dollar cap on the amount that the state Department of Housing and Community Development charges affordable-housing developers for monitoring costs. Berman proposed the cap as $150 per unit, but as part of its approval, the committee raised the cap to $260 per unit.
Of note to local lawmakers is the passage of SB 43, a proposal by Sen. Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, that revises the definition of "gravely disabled" to include individuals who are deemed to pose a substantial risk to themselves or others because of mental health or substance abuse disorders. Both Palo Alto and Redwood City had officially endorsed the bill, which would make more individuals eligible for involuntary treatment.
Palo Alto Mayor Lydia Kou wrote in a May 4 letter of support that the updated definition "better reflects the contemporary realities present in our communities, ensuring that individuals at risk of significant harm receive the help they need."
"Cities are on the front lines of addressing homelessness and need additional tools and resources to end this crisis in our state," Kou wrote. "We recognize that for unsheltered individuals with severe behavioral health needs, access to a comprehensive care system can be essential to addressing their homelessness."
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