Main housing, police payments died when squabbling California lawmakers ran out of time

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Major housing, police bills died when squabbling California lawmakers ran out of time

  • Rep. Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, Los Angeles County, speaks with Rep. Chad Mayes, I-Yucca Valley, San Bernardino County, during the final floor session in Sacramento on Monday.

    Rep. Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, Los Angeles County, speaks with Rep. Chad Mayes, I-Yucca Valley, San Bernardino County, during the final floor session in Sacramento on Monday.

    Photo: Hector Amezcua / Associated Press

Photo: Hector Amezcua / Associated Press

Rep. Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, Los Angeles County, speaks with Rep. Chad Mayes, I-Yucca Valley, San Bernardino County, during the final floor session in Sacramento on Monday.

Rep. Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, Los Angeles County, speaks with Rep. Chad Mayes, I-Yucca Valley, San Bernardino County, during the final floor session in Sacramento on Monday.

Photo: Hector Amezcua / Associated Press

In large apartment buildings, police bills died when California lawmakers ran out of time

SACRAMENTO – Executives in the California Capitol have been desperate this year to keep business on track and set high political goals despite the disruptions of a global pandemic. But in the end, 2020 had the final say.

California legislation was suspended at 1:29 a.m. on Tuesday, ending a session that had repeatedly drifted off course from the coronavirus. Many of the biggest political problems died without a final vote.

"We have seen something unprecedented in our history and done it exceptionally well," Congregation spokesman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, Los Angeles County, told his cloudy-eyed colleague at the end of the night.

But lawmakers, exhausted after 14 hours of debate behind face masks, watched some of its key proposals in the last few minutes – bills to increase housing production, create a police decertification process, and reduce plastic pollution.

These bills died in part because tensions among lawmakers exacerbated their pandemic-induced time crisis and the state constitution asked them to stop working on all but a few exempt bills at midnight.

Much of the drama took place in the Senate, where 10 Republicans were expelled from the Capitol and forced to vote remotely after coming into close contact with Senator Brian Jones, a Republican from Santee, San Diego County who tested positive for the coronavirus.

The chamber, where propriety is usually king, was in chaos when the quarantined Republicans accused Democrats of silencing them by limiting the time to debate bills as the sun set on Monday.

As tensions boiled, GOP Senator Melissa Melendez exclaimed from Lake Elsinore, San Bernardino County, "They're cops -"

Democrats, in turn, accused Republicans of trying to run out of time. Democrats later lifted the debate-limiting move after an emergency break, and Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, asked their colleagues to "reset" them so they could get through more bills.

"I'm still a bit amazed because we leaned back to allow entry," she said later. "Far from disallowing a voice or interfering with its voice – that did not happen."

Rendon said it had been a complicated year for the legislature after missing two months because of the pandemic. But he said the failure to address some of the biggest problems wasn't due to lack of time – "I think a lot of them were just politics."

Among these major problems:

Apartment bills are falling: Atkins' SB1120, which aimed to build residential neighborhoods by making it easier to divide up lots and convert homes into maisonettes, stayed tight. The assembly passed the measure minutes before the midnight deadline, leaving the Senate unable to take it in for final approval, despite Atkins saying the votes had been pending for days.

It was a shameful end to a January meeting Atkins promised to pass laws to encourage housing construction after SB50, the controversial proposal by Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, to increase public transport density and in the US increase, failed was suburbs.

Of the five bills in a legislative package that Atkins introduced in May, none goes to the governor's desk.

Rendon accused the Senate's slow seat of holding up the legislature last night.

"If Senator Atkins wanted the bill, she could have asked for it," he said. "You didn't ask for this bill. You didn't prioritize it."

Police reform languishes: Legislators have not tabled a spate of bills introduced following nationwide protests against racial inequality following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

The most far-reaching proposal, SB731 from Senator Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, Los Angeles County, was aimed at removing badges from law enforcement officers and lifting their legal immunity for killing a suspect.

The bill that would have created a nationwide process to revoke certification of problem police officers has died without a final vote in the congregation. It has been rejected by law enforcement groups who said it would set the standard too low to revoke an official's badge.

"Ignoring the thousands of voices calling for meaningful police reform is insulting," Bradford said in a statement. "Today the Californians were once again disappointed by those they were supposed to represent."

SB776 from Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, also died when the Senate adjourned without final approval. The bill would have released the records of complaints of excessive violence, sexual assault, dishonesty in the workplace, discrimination or unlawful arrests and searches.

Atkins noted that it took activists and law enforcement agencies two years to reach an agreement on a bill that raised the standard for the use of lethal force that California ultimately passed last year. "We gained a lot of ground but not enough in the time frame we had," she said.

Measures to pollute plastics die again: For the second time in a row, legislators narrowly rejected bills to combat plastic pollution after vigorous industry lobbying.

AB1080 and SB54 were identical measures to oblige manufacturers to reduce the amount of plastic packaging and food that Californians use and throw in the trash once. Companies would have been obliged to make all plastic packaging and single-use food such as cups and utensils recyclable.

About two dozen Democrats, mostly moderates, did not vote when SB54 showed up in the final hours of the session, effectively killing both measures.

Rep. Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, and Senator Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, carried the last two years' bills and made numerous changes to try to appease moderates. Before the vote, Gonzalez let go of her frustration with lawmakers to reflect on the damage plastics are doing to the planet.

"I'm tired of doing the case," said Gonzalez. "You either believe that plastics are a problem, that global warming is a real problem … or you don't."

Industry lobbyists said the bills would destroy food processing and agriculture jobs and impose unrealistic mandates.

An industry group known as Californians for Recycling and the Environment has spent more than $ 3.38 million in the past two years trying to thwart disclosure form proposals.

Environmentalists have vowed to leave the fight to the voters through an initiative slated to take place in 2022. The measure would be more restrictive for plastics manufacturers.

Dustin Gardiner and Alexei Koseff are contributors to the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: Dustin.gardiner@sfchronicle.com, alexei.koseff@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @dustingardiner, @akoseff

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