Sweeping bills pass as session concludes
SACRAMENTO — State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León sat in a black leather tufted chair in his ornate Capitol office, exhausted but determined to set the story line for the legislative session that closed just before 2:30 Saturday morning.
“This will go down as one of the most accomplished, storied legislative years in the history of the California state Legislature,” de León said, summarizing a year in which the Democratic-led body opened with an aggressive tone toward President Trump, a resistance theme that continued until the session’s final day, nine months later.
But while Democrats responded at length to every perceived presidential misstep, much to the annoyance of their state Republican counterparts, lawmakers also passed sweeping and often controversial measures throughout the year, concluding Saturday by sending Gov. Jerry Brown bills that would dedicate billions toward building affordable housing, create a statewide sanctuary policy,
end lifetime registration for some sex offenders and waive class fees for first-year community college students.
In April, lawmakers passed a $52 billion plan to pay for roads and bridges by raising gas taxes and creating a new vehicle registration fee.
Meeting its June deadline, the Legislature approved a $125 billion general fund budget — the largest in state history — that increased tax credits for the poor, put billions more toward education and increased payments for doctors and dentists who see patients on Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program for the poor.
“Cumulatively, I think there has been a lot of significant accomplishments this year, and it’s only the first year of a two-year session,” said state Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda.
The Republican minority, though, said Democrats spent too much time placating their anti-Trump base and too often asked taxpayers for more money.
Under a package of 15 housing bills sent to Brown on Friday, for example, the two main sources of funding are new fees on real estate documents and property transactions, and a proposed $4 billion bond measure that will go before voters.
The Legislature also agreed to ask voters to approve a $4 billion bond measure for water, flood and parks projects.
“Rarely has so much damage been inflicted on California’s middle class during a legislative session,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “While legislators of both parties worked overtime to protect special interests, working Californians are now burdened by high taxes, new fees and regulations that will make life more difficult for them and their families.”
Democrats introduced two dozen resolutions and bills opposing Trump in some way, including one calling on the president “to resign for the good of the country” in a resolution by Assemblyman Evan Low, D-San Jose, that was never put up for a vote. Another resolution, by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, that supported a congressional censure of Trump passed the Assembly Friday.
That resolution prompted Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach (Orange County), to ask just how many nonbinding resolutions regarding Trump would pass this year.
“For the 12th time, I get it, the Democrats in this body don’t like Trump,” Harper said.
While Democrats often attacked the president in long and damning floor speeches, they also passed several bills that advocates say offer hope and protection for immigrants worried about Trump’s proposed crackdown.
Among the most extensive was SB54, by de León, which would bar local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency on deportations, except in cases in which immigrants had been convicted of certain crimes. The sanctuary state bill passed the Assembly 49-25, and 27-11 in the Senate, on the final day of the session.
“Resistance means different things, but as the leader of the Senate, we will move forward with business as usual to improve the quality of life for Californians, but at the same time if (the Trump administration) continues to be hostile to our state, threatening to withhold dollars, violating our values as a state, we will resist and we will defend and protect the people of California,” de León said.
Lawmakers and Brown agreed last week to set aside $30 million to help immigrants affected by Trump’s decision to rescind a program that shields thousands from deportation, with that money going to provide legal help and college financial aid for participants in the curtailed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“There are so many things we’ve done to defend ourselves from what Donald Trump wants to do to our country,” said Assembyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco.
Among them: SB450 by Chiu, which would prohibit employers from allowing federal immigration agents to conduct raids in the workplace unless there is a warrant, and AB699 by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, and Chiu, which would limit citizenship information collected by schools to ensure a person’s immigration status is not compromised.
State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens (Los Angeles County), said he will push for a bill that bans federal immigration agents from schools and stateowned buildings without a warrant when the Legislature returns in January to begin the second half of its two-year session.
State Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, is joined by lawmakers Friday to discuss housing bills that the Legislature passed.