Senate Passes More Than a Dozen Climate, Equity & Justice Bills by Senator Josh Becker
Assembly Review of His Legislation to Begin in Coming Week
SACRAMENTO – Senator Josh Becker’s 2020 legislative portfolio on climate action, voter and digital equity, justice reform and housing has cleared the Senate and now advances to the Assembly, with initial committee reviews of his proposals starting in the coming week.
“I’m grateful for the support of the Senate colleagues and look forward to working with my colleagues in the Assembly on my bills to help address our pressing climate concerns and equity issues on several fronts,” said Senator Becker, D-Peninsula and vice chair of the Joint Legislative Committee for Climate Change Policies.
The Senate passed nine of the senator’s measures in the past two weeks; four others were passed and sent to the Assembly earlier. Friday [today] was the Legislature’s deadline for bills to clear their house of origin.
Here is a summary of Senator Becker’s active bills:
The Net-Zero Concrete and Cement Bill, Senate Bill 596
SB 596 would help California sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the production of concrete and its main ingredient, cement. Worldwide, the industry that produces these vital building elements accounts for almost 8 percent of global emissions. SB 596 sets a 2045 target date in California for carbon neutral cement and concrete, with a 40% emissions reduction by 2030. “SB 596 would firmly establish the Golden State as a leader in concrete innovation,” Senator Becker said.
Clearing the Path to Clean Energy Homes, SB 68
SB 68 would make it easier for owners to convert their property into electricity-powered homes and buildings. The bill aims to lower costs and reduce delays for property owners seeking to upgrade their electric panels to accommodate electric heating, car charging, solar, and energy storage. The bill calls for supporting technology development through the California Energy Commission’s EPIC program. The bill also directs the Energy Commission to research and publish best practices so that electrification can be accomplished more efficiently by all stakeholders involved in the process. “SB 68 eases the barriers for people who are trying to help us achieve California’s climate goals by reducing their use of fossil fuels in buildings and vehicles,” said Senator Becker. “We need people to be making these changes and we should make it easier for them to do so. SB 596 provides a solution.”
Making Zero- and Low-Emission Vehicles More Accessible, SB 771
SB 771 would give lower income Californians a state sales tax break when replacing an older vehicle by purchasing a new or used electric or hybrid car under the Clean Cars 4 All program. The bill provides program participants the added incentive of an exemption from the state portion of sales tax, while leaving the portion of sales tax that would go to local governments intact. “Transportation is the greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California,” Senator Becker said. “We must help lower income communities afford electric vehicles and high-mileage hybrids that will help save families money and reduce reliance on fossil fuels, while helping our state lower GHG emissions.”
SB 771 now in the Assembly, will become a two-year bill and be eligible for review in January.
Earlier this spring, SB 67, which would set a 24/7 clean energy standard for California, also became a two-year bill. Its legislative review would be eligible to continue in the Senate in January.
Voter Equity and Access
Signature Verification Standards for Mail-In Ballots, SB 503
SB 503 would implement a uniform statewide standard for signature verification of mail-in ballots, timely outreach to voters whose ballots are rejected, and periodic reporting about the nature of those rejections. Challenged signatures disproportionately impact the most vulnerable Californians – those with limited English proficiency, disabilities, first-time and aging voters, and voters of color. SB 503 codifies and builds on the California Secretary of State’s emergency regulations for the November 2020 election.
Voter Registration Equity, SB 504
SB 504 ensures Californians who were involved with the criminal justice system and have paid their debt to society are not inadvertently removed from voter rolls. The bill also ensures that members of the military, other Californians overseas and individuals living with disabilities have equal access to remote same-day voter registration as other Californians.
Bridging the Digital Divide in K-12 Education
The Digital Education Equity Program, SB 767
SB 767 establishes the Digital Education Equity Program, DEEP, to equitably provide education technology, network and professional development support to all California public school districts. “This is a step toward closing the digital divide in California schools,” said Senator Becker. In many schools, educators don’t have access to the information and professional development they need to cost-effectively plan for and implement technology that supports instruction. SB 767 directs the Department of Education, along with County Offices of Education, to plan and implement DEEP.
Expanding Access to Civil Court Fee Waivers, SB 355
Inspired by Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto and backed by more than a dozen legal aid and advocacy groups, SB 355 would improve access to civil justice by updating the eligibility criteria for low-income Californians seeking a waiver of filing fees and other costs associated with litigation. The current criteria for automatically qualifying for a waiver are tied to the federal poverty level, which does not accurately reflect the true cost of living for California residents.
The Better & Equitable Sentencing Through Thoughtful Practices Act, SB 775
SB 775 would help hundreds of incarcerated people who are in prison today just because of a technicality. The bill would clarify existing law so that people who are convicted of attempted murder or manslaughter, and are the least culpable in such cases, have the right to petition for sentences that better align with their crimes. Current law allows others convicted of heavier charges to seek modified sentences, but the least culpable in such cases are not allowed to do so. This reform would aid the hundreds of incarcerated people who were deemed by courts to be excluded from this opportunity because of a legal technicality. The BESTT Practices Act would also help thousands of others who have not filed petitions because of the court rulings.
Expanding Economic Justice and Opportunity, SB 779
SB 779 would encourage more “earn and learn” opportunities for training paired with employment for veterans, the unhoused, people exiting the justice system, and other vulnerable jobseekers who are often shut out of the workforce. “By increasing our commitment to earn and learn programs, more Californians with barriers to employment can gain important skills to, over time, sustain themselves, secure housing, reduce reliance on government programs, and support their families,” Senator Becker said.
Affordable, Intergenerational Housing, SB 591
SB 591 would spur creation of affordable housing to accommodate senior citizens and transition-age foster youth by clearing the way for financing of intergenerational housing development projects.
Easing Barriers for ADUs, SB 778
SB 778 would close the legal loopholes that impede creation of accessory dwelling units – units also known as ADUs, in-laws and granny flats – in mixed use and multifamily residential buildings.
Aiding Local Communities
Simplifying Opportunities for Small Cities to Partner on Road Projects, SB 640
Inspired by the city of Belmont, SB 640 authorizes local governments to jointly sponsor local street and road projects funded by the Road Repair and Accountability Act, SB 1 in 2017. SB 640 enables small cities to pool their SB 1 dollars to bid jointly for a project involving a thoroughfare that runs through multiple jurisdictions. Teaming up on such projects saves local governments time and money by avoiding delays and piecemeal road improvements.
Santa Clara Valley Water District, SB 786
SB 786 would allow the Santa Clara Valley Water District to propose general obligation bonds to voters, allow Valley Water to issue revenue bonds based on net revenue, and updates the district’s short-term debt cap to be on par with the district’s current size. Now serving about 2 million Santa Clara County residents, the district was formed in 1929 and currently operates under a District Act enacted in 1951. SB 786 would update the 70-year-old policy.
The text and status of ALL Senator Becker’s bills are available here.
All 2020 legislation must pass both houses by September 10 in order to be considered by the governor for his signature.