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Northern California’s recent wildfires have burned homes at a greater pace than developers are building them, deepening a housing shortage that already has left millions struggling to find affordable places to live.

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State Sen. Benjamin Allen (D-Santa Monica)
State Sen. Benjamin Allen (D-Santa Monica) (Kirk McKoy)

A new bill would allow the state to issue bonds and borrow money from investors to finance projects that reduce wildfire risks in California. 

State Sen. Benjamin Allen (D-Santa Monica) introduced the Wildfire, Drought and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2020 as another tool the state can use to offset a pattern of increasingly destructive and deadly blazes. 

“This year’s deadly wildfires, on the heels of last year’s catastrophic events and a devastating multi-year drought, clearly demonstrate that the impacts of climate change are here now and we need to be prepared,” Allen said in a statement. “This legislation sets a course to reduce the impacts of rising global temperatures and invest in necessary measures to protect communities.”

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  • California Legislature
  • California Democrats
(Daniel Acker / Bloomberg)

After years of trying, two California lawmakers are once again attempting to eliminate sales taxes on diapers and tampons.

Democratic Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher of San Diego and Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens have reintroduced bills to exempt purchasers from paying sales tax on the products.

“Every baby needs diapers,” Gonzalez Fletcher said in a statement about Assembly Bill 66. “The fact that we tax diapers is unfair and it’s a burdensome tax that hurts working class and middle class families.”

  • Ballot measures
  • California Legislature
The Capitol building in Sacramento.
The Capitol building in Sacramento. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

California’s elected tax collection board was troubled by allegations of botched handling of funds, excessive spending on furniture and nepotism before it was stripped of many of its duties last year by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature.

Now, one lawmaker wants to abolish the state Board of Equalization, and shift its remaining duties to an agency of civil service employees.

Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-North Hollywood) introduced legislation on Monday that would ask California voters in 2020 to amend the state Constitution to eliminate the elected board, which was created in 1879.

  • California Legislature
A bicyclist passes by construction in downtown Los Angeles.
A bicyclist passes by construction in downtown Los Angeles. (Christina House / For The Times)

Low-income housing developments in California could receive a continued infusion of public subsidies under proposals unveiled this week by state lawmakers.

Multiple new bills call for new funding for low-income housing through a revival of an urban redevelopment program and by increasing tax credits to fund new projects. Legislators have failed to pass versions of the same measures in years past, but have new hopes because Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom campaigned on spending more money on housing. They also point out the state budget’s bottom line remains strong.

“Our housing crisis is dire and persistent, and our state must be just as aggressive and persistent in order to solve it,” Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) said in a statement. “With a new governor and an extraordinary budget surplus, now is the time to make significant, ongoing investments in affordable housing.”

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California law gives children who inherit their parents’ homes a tax break that keeps their property taxes low — even if the heirs don’t live there.

A California state senator has revived a major effort to boost homebuilding near transit, a proposal he says is necessary to address the state’s housing affordability and climate change challenges that have only deepened since his initial bill failed earlier this year.

A California state legislator is reviving an effort to require public universities to provide abortion pills on college campuses after Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar measure earlier this year. 

Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) said she believes the proposal has a better shot at becoming law next year under Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, who publicly supported the idea on the campaign trail. 

“I would have reintroduced it even if we still had Gov. Brown [in office] because I think the issue is that important,” Leyva said. “Women should always have access to abortion. That’s their constitutional protected right and it’s woman’s choice.” 

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State Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), right, and Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) co-wrote legislation to end money bail.
State Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), right, and Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) co-wrote legislation to end money bail. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

With California’s move to end the cash bail system in limbo, Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) says he is looking for other ways to ensure courts are fair in determining whether criminal defendants are fit for release before trial. 

On the first day of the 2019 legislative session, Hertzberg introduced a bill that would require the state to collect data and evaluate any so-called “risk assessment tools” already employed by as many as 49 counties across the state. The tools, or tech analyses, are used to evaluate people who have been arrested to determine whether, and under what conditions, they should be released.

But judges and court officials can insert data into the systems that can lead the software to draw improper, biased conclusions if not properly monitored, advocates say. Hertzberg’s new proposal, Senate Bill 36, would require counties to report how they use the systems in an attempt to prevent that from happening. 

  • California Legislature
Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) condemns a federal proposal to restrict green cards for immigrants in need of public services.
Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) condemns a federal proposal to restrict green cards for immigrants in need of public services. (Jazmine Ulloa/Los Angeles Times)

California lawmakers on Monday denounced a federal proposal that would restrict green cards for those likely to receive public assistance, calling it a “xenophobic,” “classist” and “racist” plan to target the state’s most vulnerable immigrant families.

Immigrants who rely on public benefits for food, housing and medical care could be denied green cards under the new rules put forth this fall by the Trump administration in an attempt to limit family-based “chain migration.” The proposal was part of wider efforts by the Trump administration to further restrict legal immigration.

“Trump’s latest anti-immigrant move shows again how heartless and un-American this administration has been; a move that forces immigrant families to make impossible choices,”  said Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), chairman of the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus.