California

Pass and fail: How the final day of Calif.’s legislative session shook out

The final day of the California Legislative session is always a caffeine-fueled, adrenaline-filled thrill ride with some of the state’s most controversial proposed laws being shuttled to, or away, from the Governor’s desk.

2022 proved to be no different, with Gov. Gavin Newsom throwing a late-inning curveball by pursuing more aggressive climate change measures, spearheaded by a call to keep the state’s sole operating nuclear power plant – Diablo Canyon – operating beyond its planned closure date of 2025.

So how did things fare?

Senate Bill 846 – Diablo Canyon Extension (Pass)

The Newsom administration first floated its proposal to extend the life of the state’s last-operating nuclear plant to 2035, ten years after operator PG&E agreed to close it.

Beyond granting PG&E an extension on its operations, it also granted the firm a reprieve on some environmental reviews and would tender a forgivable $1.4 billion loan.

Progressive lawmakers initially pushed back on the proposal, privately calling on Newsom to utilize the money for Diablo to beef up investments in other green alternative energy production methods.

One Newsom official called the counterproposal “fantasy and fairy dust.”

The end result? Senate Bill 846, drafted up by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and Asm. Jordan Cunningham (R–San Luis Obispo), which preserved most of the Newsom proposal but cut down the amount of time Diablo could continue to operate, from 10 extra years to five.

Amid a statewide Flex Alert warning of possible electricity reliability issues, a heady debate kicked off late into Wednesday night and concluded early Thursday morning with both houses of the Legislature approved the measure with more two-thirds votes.

Assembly Bill 1577 – Unionization of Legislative Staff (Killed)

A bill that would have unionized Legislative staffers became the surprising subject of intense drama as it entered the Assembly Public Employment and Retirement (PERS) Committee.

Asm. and Sacramento County Sheriff-elect Jim Cooper (D-Sacramento) pulled the bill, prompting a wave of criticism from Democrats, who have sought to unionize their staffs.

After some cajoling from Speaker Anthony Rendon’s (D-Paramount) office, Cooper restored the bill for consideration, where it was promptly defeated with only two Democratic votes in favor.

In the interim, Cooper and California Labor Federation chief Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher got into an all-time Twitter brawl over negotiations on the bill prior to him temporarily pulling it from consideration.

Fletcher called Cooper a liar, while Cooper contended that the unionization bill was “more about [Fletcher] having a victory lap, than it was about staff.”

Senate Bill 918 – Concealed Carry Provisions – (Failed)

In the wake of a sweeping U.S. Supreme Court ruling on regulations concerning concealed carry of weapons, California lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom sought to quickly fire back with new policies aiming to tighten concealed carry in sensitive areas of the state and expand background check requirements.

The ultimate bill, Senate Bill 918, failed on Thursday after it couldn’t muster a two-thirds vote from the California State Assembly. The vote came after Attorney General Rob Bonta spent much of Thursday whipping votes to get it approved and over to Newsom.

Senate Bill 866 – Minor Consent to Vaccines – (Pulled)

A bill by Sen. Scott Weiner (D–San Francisco) aiming to allow children aged 15 and older to consent to any and all FDA-approved vaccines without parental input, unsurprisingly, drew considerable controversy from California parents.

The bill was the last remaining vaccine measure to make it to the end of the legislative session, as equally contentious ideas – such as sweeping employer mandates – lost steam as the coronavirus pandemic vastly receded.

Weiner blamed the lack of support within the Capitol on “months of harassment and misinformation” by “a small but highly vocal and organized minority of anti-vaxxers.”

Reid Stone is a contributing reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun.