When Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) renewed his request this month to audit the state agency in charge of spending billions of dollars generated from California’s primary climate change program, he knew what the response from his opponents would be.
“I think the environmentalists are going to point you over here and say he's taking oil money, he's trying to block the program,” Gray said in an interview. “I'm not trying to block the program. I'm for fighting climate change.”
But in pushing for the audit, Gray got a big assist from the oil industry. The industry’s main lobbyist wrote the request.
Californians who purchase lead-acid batteries like those used to start cars and trucks would pay a new $1 fee under legislation sent to Gov. Jerry Brown early Thursday morning, with the funds earmarked for cleaning up contaminated sites such as the former Exide battery plant in Los Angeles County.
The fee charged to battery buyers would rise to $2 in 2022. Lawmakers would direct the revenues — estimated to be as much as $40 million a year — to deal with contamination sites as needed.
"For four decades, our community has been waiting for something," said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), the author of AB 2153.
After 10 bills over eight years failed to legalize Internet poker in California, the latest plan also died Wednesday in the Legislature amid continued squabbling by competing factions of the gambling industry.
A bill that would have allowed Californians to legally play poker online lacked support from two-thirds of Assembly members and was not brought up for a vote on the last day of the legislative session.
Lawmakers cried, sang, recited limericks and confessed crushes on departing colleagues this week in their farewell speeches for California legislators whose terms are up.
For 14 Assembly members and six state senators, Wednesday likely marked their last day arguing on the floors of their respective chambers. In an end-of-session tradition, lawmakers said goodbye to their termed-out colleagues between voting on bills.
Assemblyman Matt Dababneh (D-Encino) revealed he might have a legislative crush on outgoing Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose).
State lawmakers defeated a measure late Wednesday that would have given retail and grocery store employees who work on Thanksgiving double pay.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), the bill’s author, said it was needed as more and more retailers were extending Black Friday sales into Thanksgiving Day.
“I narrowed and narrowed and narrowed this bill so it only affects the things that concern us the most: the larger retailers who continue to open up on Thanksgiving rather than allowing people to stay home with their families,” Gonzalez said.
In potentially a major change to California’s taxi business, state lawmakers passed legislation late Wednesday to centralize control over the industry, an effort supporters said would allow cabs to better compete with Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services.
The bill, AB 650, would prohibit local governments from setting taxi rates or limit the number of taxis on the road as well as allowing cabs to pick up and drop off passengers outside specific local jurisdictions. Ride-hailing companies have looser regulations in those areas and have made significant inroads into the taxi business.
“The laws and regulations governing the provisions of transportation services are many decades old and have evolved slowly,” said the bill’s author, Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell). “As with many new technologies, the rapid growth of [ride-hailing] companies has created a disruption in taxis' archaic model of transportation.”
In the last few hours before the end of session, lawmakers passed a measure to advance the California bullet train project.
Voters approved nearly $10 billion in bonds for the high-speed rail project in 2008, but it has since stalled. The bill passed Wednesday would clarify wording in the 2008 measure and allow some of the money for the project to upgrade existing rail lines.
"It's a critical investment in our infrastructure," the bill's author, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco), said.