Environment, housing, privacy: What Calif. lawmakers did at session’s end

California lawmakers moved a tsunami of legislation in the closing days of this year’s session.
State Sen. Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, works at his desk during the Senate session at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023. Lawmakers are voting on hundreds of bills before the legislative session concludes for the year on Thursday. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

California lawmakers moved a tsunami of legislation in the closing days of this year’s session as legislators rushed to meet a Thursday deadline, setting the pace that blue states across the nation will strive to follow.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has until Oct. 14 to sign or veto the bills.

In a statement, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D) said that in a challenging year, including destructive storms and a pessimistic budget forecast, “my Democratic Senate colleagues and I continued to protect the progress we have made as a state by championing new approaches to our mental health, homelessness, infrastructure, climate, and housing challenges.”

Here are some of the most notable bills lawmakers cleared over the last four days:

Environment: Companies with annual revenues over $1 billion would be required to report their level of greenhouse gas emissions under one bill that passed this week. Also headed to Newsom’s desk is a bill that would force companies with more than $500 million in annual revenue to report their climate-related financial risk on a biennial basis starting in 2026. 

Housing: Lawmakers approved legislation that would extend an existing law requiring cities and localities with unmet housing goals to use a streamlined permitting process for new construction, a tool supporters say has helped address the state’s affordable housing crisis. Newsom has already signed a bill that removes potential noise as an environmental factor considered when permitting new housing construction projects, a move that helps clear the way for new housing at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Technology: Lawmakers approved landmark legislation called the Delete Act that would allow consumers to request with the click of a button the deletion of the data third-party brokers have collected about them, similar to the Do-Not-Call Registry. They also passed a bill that would require social media platforms to remove images of child sexual abuse and one that would require them to archive any content they remove from their platforms that is related to drug sales.

Guns: California lawmakers approved a Newsom-backed resolution calling for a constitutional convention to address gun ownership, as well as bills requiring credit card companies to use new merchant category codes for firearms retailers, tightening concealed carry laws, and establishing an 11% excise tax on firearm and ammunition purchases.

Health: A Newsom-backed overhaul of the state’s mental and behavioral health system will go before voters in March, with the two-bill package appearing jointly on the ballot as Proposition 1. Newsom called it “a key part of the solution to our homelessness crisis, and improving mental health for kids and families.” Lawmakers also passed a bill to require health insurance companies that cover prescription drugs to also pay for over-the-counter overdose-reversing products, capping out-of-pocket costs at $10.

Labor: Lawmakers passed several labor-related bills, including to give striking workers unemployment benefits, to increase the minimum wage for workers in medical settings to $25 an hour and at fast food restaurants to $20, and to allow state legislative staff to join a labor union. A bill introduced in the closing hours that won’t be considered until next year seeks to protect entertainment industry workers from being replaced by artificial intelligence-created clones of themselves.

Consumers: At least two bills passed seek to end unexpected costs for consumers. One requires extra fees for purchases such as concert tickets and hotel rooms to be advertised up front; another seeks to limit how much ambulance providers can bill patients. A right-to-repair bill would allow individuals and third-party repair shops — rather than only authorized providers — to have access to the parts, tools and instructions necessary to make repairs.