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Politics & Policy

Hello, governor: Newsom faces big decisions as legislators pass new laws on hot-button issues

Los Angeles, CA - August 24 Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks a Homekey site to announce the latest round of awards for homeless housing projects across the state on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

After defeating David Campos in a not-so-close Assembly race, Matt Haney relinquished his role as a San Francisco supervisor in early May and headed to Sacramento. But it wasn’t until this past month that he truly stepped into the arena and learned how things really work at the state capital.

Hundreds of bills were passed in the days preceding the legislative session deadline Wednesday night, and lawmakers’ agendas—as well as their personalities, which often have an outsized role in the success or failure of a bill—were on full display.

“There’s a lot of unpredictability and uncertainty and people are reacting and responding in real time,” Haney told The Standard in a phone interview Thursday. “Relationships coming into play, people feeling like they got burned by a senator means they can act differently when that bill comes to (the Assembly for a vote). That’s the part of it that is surprising—how much uncertainty there is.”

Even though Democrats hold a supermajority in the Legislature, factions within the party exist and they can absolutely dictate an up or down vote. Advancing climate change was the primary focus for many this session, but issues ranging from abortion rights and forced conservatorships also took center stage. 

Below are five takeaways from the end of session, and a look at how a handful of signatures from Gov. Gavin Newsom could impact San Francisco’s future.

Addressing Mental Illness on the Streets

The Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act, aka SB 1338, passed through the legislature with overwhelming support Wednesday. The bill will create what are being called CARE Courts to compel people with severe mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders into treatment. It requires counties to provide people with comprehensive treatment or face sanctions. Conversely, it also holds individuals accountable for completing treatment.

With hundreds, if not thousands, of people suffering from mental illness on San Francisco’s streets, this bill’s passage and Newsom’s expected signing—his office essentially wrote the bill—will make for one of the top stories in the city over the next year, if not years to come.

The legislation sets up a broad framework for getting thousands of the state’s most vulnerable residents into drug and mental health treatment, but big questions remain over how to fund and staff such an expansion of services—especially when treatment beds can be hard to find.

“There is widespread concern across the state and both parties about the mental health crisis on our streets, and CARE Courts was an innovative, novel approach that most legislators want to give a try,” Haney said, “I’m a co-author on it and there’s a lot of work to do to make sure it’s funded and we’re successful, but this was widely embraced in the Legislature.”

Protections for Trans People and Women Everywhere

San Francisco State Senator Scott Weiner authored SB 107 to protect transgender patients who travel to California for gender-affirming care from prosecution, as well as shield doctors who provide that care. The bill also prohibits children from being removed from the care of their parent or guardian if that person allows their child to receive treatment. If Newsom signs the bill, California would ban compliance with out-of-state subpoenas seeking medical information related to gender-affirming care. 

This bill was passed along with a slew of bills to protect women coming into California from out of state to receive medical care and procedures related to abortions after the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. San Francisco hospitals and clinics have already seen an influx of patients coming in from out of state, and that is only going to continue as California leads the way in offering medical care and legal protections.

“As judges and lawmakers across the country continue to throw pregnant women into impossible and perilous positions, I am proud that California is resolutely moving in the opposite direction,” Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said in a statement. “Abortion is health care—period.”

A First-Ever Labor Council for Fast Food Workers

California could soon have a state-run council to set labor standards across the fast food sector, including issues such as wages and safety. The council would consist of fast food workers, their advocates, restaurant owners, fast food corporations and the state’s labor and business departments. Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) authored the bill, which also had the support of the Service Employees International Union and the California Labor Federation.

The first-in-the-nation legislation would regulate a broad range of working conditions across an industry that employs roughly 700,000 Californians. How this impacts unionization efforts across franchises and costs in the face of rising inflation will be something to monitor.

Fast food isn’t as popular in San Francisco as most cities, which is a good thing on multiple levels.

Trying to Keep Kids Safe on the Internet

At this point we can all agree that the internet is good and awful. These truths are not mutually exclusive. But the focus of AB 2273 is whether we need to provide greater protection to children and minors. The bipartisan bill, which includes Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) as a co-author, would generally prohibit companies from collecting, selling, sharing, or keeping kids’ personal information other than to provide the service that the kid is actively interacting with.

Those who oppose it include: almost everyone doing business on the internet. Trade groups for businesses and tech companies, including the California Chamber of Commerce, and TechNet, which counts among its members Google, Airbnb, Meta (formerly known as Facebook), and Snap—all of them are hoping Newsom vetoes the bill. They argue that the bill is overly broad and setting privacy regulations state-by-state could create confusion for businesses.

Getting Serious on Climate Change

Climate change dominated the end-of-session, with no fewer than seven bills passing to take on the existential threat of rising sea levels, increasing powerful wildfires and storms, extreme droughts and potentially all of us—or what’s left of us—having to move to the Midwest and Canada.

The slew of bills that passed touched on increasing goals to become carbon neutral, raising the bar on emission reduction goals, creating an actual climate change plan for transportation infrastructure, providing new permit frameworks for capturing carbon, and more.