By ADAM BEAM, Associated Preess
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California lawmakers will return to an angry five-week sprint on Monday that will include controversial debates about police brutality, unemployment benefits, hospital mergers, and a moratorium on eviction during the coronavirus pandemic.
State law has closed twice due to the corona virus and wasted valuable time solving problems and doing business with important laws. Now most of the 55 standing committees will meet only once, limiting the number of invoices that can be submitted for the meeting by August 31.
"Some people will have little time left for some of their tougher bills," said MP Lorena Gonzalez, Democratic chairman of the Assembly's Funds Committee, which is the goalkeeper for most of the laws that go into the assembly.
However, some lawmakers are working on a different solution: ask Governor Gavin Newsom to call them back to a special session so that they have more time to pass rigorous bills, including those aimed at correcting the consequences of the corona virus. The request will come in the form of a letter from some legislators, Assembly spokesman Anthony Rendon said.
Coronavirus-related bills include a proposal by Senator Jerry Hill that COVID-19 infections are eligible for employee compensation payments and a bill by Senator Anthony Portantino that extends paid sick leave for workers in the food sector. The most controversial topic could be a bill by Democratic MP David Chiu to prevent landlords from driving out tenants who cannot pay their rent during the pandemic.
Rendon said the idea that the assembly adopted such comprehensive bills nine months ago was "probably science fiction."
Legislators are also discussing how to replace some federal unemployment benefits that are due to expire on Friday. Since mid-March, 8.7 million Californians have applied for unemployment and the state has paid $ 50 billion in social benefits, which is the amount the state has had to borrow to make the payments.
Californians can get up to $ 450 a week in unemployment benefits, but the federal government has increased that amount by an additional $ 600 a week, increasing pay for many beyond the hourly wages they earned on the job.
Congress is considering extending these benefits, but many Republicans reject the idea and say it prevents people from returning to work.
Discussions in state law, in which the Democrats have a super majority in each chamber, allowing them to pass bills without GOP votes, focused on replacing part of the $ 600 should it expire.
Proponents of the move say this is vital for low-income wage earners, especially those who have lost their jobs twice – once under Newsom's March-at-home stay in March, which brought most of the economy to a standstill, and again within the last month when the governor reintroduced the closure For bars, gyms, shopping malls and other indoor shops, as well as limited restaurants, hair salons and other outdoor shops. curb the resurrecting virus.
"It would be nice to do that. I think that's definitely important, ”said Rendon.
The state has its own monetary problems and adopted a budget in June that included billions in spending cuts to cover an estimated $ 54.3 billion virus-related deficit. However, the financial picture has improved slightly. Last month, the state raised $ 1 billion more tax than expected, and the impartial Legislative Analysts Office says tax revenue has been about 12%, or $ 2.7 billion, higher than forecast since April 1.
The Assembly and Senate public security committees will have the highest workload flooded with police and racial justice laws in the face of nationwide protests triggered by George Floyd's death.
Laws include banning the use of tear gas and neck supports by the police, which disrupt blood flow to the brain, restrict the use of rubber bullets to disperse protests, enable independent police force investigations, and certify law enforcement officers for misconduct were fired to prevent them from being posted elsewhere.
"We have lost none of our energy in and around these issues," said Rendon.
Health issues include suggestions to ensure that emergency patients never pay more than their co-pays or deductibles, limit insulin drug co-pays, and allow California to manufacture its own generics to lower prices.
One of the biggest struggles will be for a proposal to authorize the Attorney General not to merge nonprofit hospitals. The bill aims to prevent monopolies that drive up healthcare costs, but is firmly rejected by the California Hospital Association, which would burden the healthcare system with "extreme, burdensome" regulations.
While public schools are discussing how to safely reopen their campus, administrators are watching a proposal that, with a few exceptions, protects districts from compensation in the event that students or staff get sick with the coronavirus, even if a school follows security guidelines.
Newsom has directed school districts in most states to start the year with distance learning, with strict guidelines for reopening. Legislators are discussing how to support districts with their distance learning programs that may require a change in the state budget.
"I am very concerned and interested in how we support children in educational activities while they are at home," said Senator Holly Mitchell, a Los Angeles democrat and chair of the Senate Committee on Budget and Tax Audit.
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