From e-bikes to human trafficking and homelessness, an update on proposed state laws by North County reps
As the Legislature prepares to reconvene from its spring recess on April 10, here’s an update on some of the bills proposed by members of the Legislature who represent North County:
Catherine Blakespear, D-38th District
- SB 7
One of two bills that Blakespear announced after her swearing-in ceremony, along with SB 8, SB 7 would add “homeless” as an income category in the Regional Housing Needs Allocation process. The RHNA process provides every community in the state with a number of new housing units it needs to provide at all income levels based on trends in population growth.
“Homelessness in California is an urgent issue and needs to be considered in local regional housing needs assessments,” the bill reads.
SB 7 has been referred to the Senate’s Housing Committee, of which Blakespear is a member.
- SB 8
Introduced by Blakespear and Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-San Francisco, this bill would make California the first state in the U.S. to require gun owners to have liability insurance that covers negligent or accidental firearm usage.
SB 8 is still going through committee hearings. It’s latest stop was a March 27 referral to the Senate’s Insurance Committee.
“Firearms are similar to cars in that they are inherently dangerous and are in wide circulation,” Blakespear said in a statement after the bill was introduced in January. “If a car accidentally causes injury to a person or property, the insurance policy will compensate the victim. The same approach should apply to injuries caused by guns.”
Brian Jones, R-40th District
- SB 3
To address the ongoing homelessness crisis, SB 31 would provide a system to “compassionately” clear encampments near schools, daycare centers, parks and libraries. It would require 72 hours of notice before an encampment sweep to give the people living there a chance to move, and officers would have to give them information about shelters, mental health services and other resources.
Coauthors of the bill include Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa.
“We must work together to move people from encampments into better accommodations where they can have access to services,” Dodd said.
- SB 236
Through SB 236, district attorneys would receive funding for “vertical prosecution” that allows the same prosecutors to stay with human trafficking cases from beginning to end, as opposed to having different prosecutors on each phase of the process.
The Senate’s Public Safety Committee approved SB 236 5-0 on March 28.
“Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery,” Jones said. “We must use every resource available to help protect victims from further trauma and convict the evil people who buy and sell humans for their own benefit, often across jurisdictions.”
Brian Maienschein D-76th District
- AB 253
This bill would require each county to post a report on suspicious child deaths by July 1 of each year. Counties already have to produce the report at least once a year, but the bill adds an annual deadline and other provisions on investigating child deaths and reporting information to the public.
AB 253 was approved 8-0 by the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee on Feb. 28.
The bill reads, “A state with an annual budget of over $200 billion can and should spend the modest sums needed to implement current federal and state laws and best practices to track, evaluate, and report upon child deaths to permit the possibility of enacting or reforming policies and practices that will prevent children from dying in the future, if possible.”
- AB 367
With the proliferation of fentanyl coming across the border, AB 367 would add up to five years of additional prison time for anyone who causes “great bodily injury” to another person through fentanyl distribution. Fentanyl deaths have been on the rise throughout the country.
The bill has been referred to the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee.
“Fentanyl has had devastating effects in San Diego County and throughout the state, and the data shows us that action to address this epidemic is critically overdue,” Maienschein said. “My bill would help California hold drug dealers accountable for the destruction and trauma they cause by knowingly distributing this deadly substance.”
Tasha Boerner Horvath, D-77th District
- AB 45
This bill would encourage more blue carbon projects during construction in coastal zones, which can help remove greenhouse gases near lagoons, bays, wetlands and other areas. Blue carbon refers to carbon captured by ocean and coastal ecosystems. Environmental activists have pointed to the depletion of blue carbon in California over the years.
The Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee voted 8-0 to approve the bill on March 13. It has been referred to the Appropriations Committee and added to the suspense file, where bills go if they would have an annual cost of more than $150,000. Bills on the suspense file are considered later in the legislative process, when lawmakers have a better idea of what the state budget will look like.
“We must use every tool at our disposal to combat the climate crisis,” Boerner Horvath said. “This bill will promote Blue Carbon projects and help them play a direct role in revitalizing California’s nature-based carbon sinks, helping to naturally remove greenhouse gases from the environment.”
- AB 1188
With more e-bikers hitting the roads, local leaders have been looking for ways to promote traffic safety for everyone who uses the roads. AB 1188 would require state transportation officials to begin distributing a bicycle safety handbook that outlines laws and best safety practices that apply to bicycles and e-bikes. It would be available online, at DMV offices and other state-owned facilities.
The bill was referred to the Assembly’s Transportation Committee.
Chris Ward, D-78th District
- AB 223
This bill would keep petitions filed by minors for changes of gender or sex identifier under seal. Ward said the bill would help protect transgender youth because “many of our documents have become digitized and are too easily accessible to those who would do these youth harm.”
AB 223 was approved 10-1 by the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, followed by a 63-0 vote on the Assembly floor. Seventeen Assembly members didn’t record a vote.
- AB 251
After decades of prioritizing automobiles when building roads and other infrastructure, leaders throughout the state have been trying to make the streets more hospitable to cyclists, pedestrians and everyone else. AB 251 would require the California Transportation Commission to study the relationship between vehicle weight and deaths or injuries to pedestrians and cyclists.
The Assembly’s Transportation Committee approved AB 251 on an 11-3 vote on March 20.
“Our pedestrian fatality rate is higher than the national average, and no state has more pedestrian deaths on its roadways,” Ward said in a statement after the committee vote. “We owe it to all Californians to look into the connection between these vehicles and fatalities, so we can create an environment where everyone, including drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, can all feel safe on our roadways.”
Bills will continue to be vetted by committees en route to the Assembly and Senate floors over the next few months, leading up to the Oct. 14 deadline for the governor to sign or veto the ones that are approved by both chambers.
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