California Legislature extends recess to May 4 over coronavirus concerns
Leaders of the California Legislature on Friday extended the cancellation of all legislative hearings and meetings until May 4, a decision they said reflected the need for additional caution in the face of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
“Our priority continues to be bending the curve of infection,” Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said in a written statement. “We must continue to support the efforts of our first responders and healthcare personnel.”
Lawmakers were supposed to return to Sacramento to resume work on April 13, a date that began to look less tenable as the number of COVID-19 infections and related deaths across the state continued to rise. The initial decision last month to suspend activities at the state Capitol was unprecedented in California history and came after legislators grappled for several days to balance public health concerns with the need for action to address the impact of the pandemic. Both houses quickly passed a $1-billion relief plan on March 16 before putting a halt to all legislative business.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said recently that he had been in touch with the two leaders to discuss changes to the timetable for the Legislature’s return, but insisted the final decision was theirs to make.
Whether a return in early May will be possible could depend on the state’s success or failure this month in slowing the rate of infection. Newsom and his advisors said this week that the state could see a peak of cases in May, while pointing out that estimates are still fluid.
Early spring is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for the Legislature, with hundreds of bills considered by policy committees before receiving final votes in either of the two houses by May 31. How lawmakers will adjust the process this year remains to be seen. Legislative rules state that bills must be considered by a policy committee before the date on which lawmakers are now scheduled to return to work.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), the chairwoman of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, said last month that she had advised her colleagues to scrap many or most of the bills they introduced earlier this year, saying there would be neither time to consider them nor the funding needed to enact them into law.
Also in doubt is the usual process for crafting a state budget, made all the more challenging by early estimates that most or all of California’s projected $21-billion cash reserves could be needed to replace tax revenues lost due to the pandemic-caused shutdown of businesses and job cuts.
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