Legislature Focuses on Its Priorities While Going Slow on Housing and Homelessness
On Friday, the Legislature faces the big “house of origin” deadline. All bills that were introduced this year must pass their “house of origin” by the 31st. In other words, bills that were introduced in the Assembly must pass by Friday night and vice versa.
In fact, the Assembly and Senate might complete their work ahead of time. How so? Well, with a large liberal supermajority in both houses, there’s fewer Republicans to complain about the bad bills and slow the debate.
When I worked at the Capitol, one of my jobs as a communications staffer in the Republican minority was to highlight and help GOP Assembly members speak against some of the most egregious bills during weeks like this. Whenever my Democrat friends would call and complain about how long a debate was going on a bill, I’d always answer “you’re welcome” as its was probably my handiwork that inspired more GOP-ers to speak against that proposal.
Naturally, I look at the end-of-session bills through this prism. Reviewing some of the bills that have already passed – or will certainly pass before Friday – I found myself asking the question – are these really California’s priorities?
Californians are rightly growing frustrated with legislative inaction when the state is facing serious housing and homeless crises that are growing worse by the day. Despite their lip service, lawmakers are spending their time these days on anything but housing and homelessness.
Turn on the California Channel and you’ll see legislators spending a lot of them on their priorities. For example, they debated whether to ban circus animals from performing in California, as they did last week. They also found time to pass a bill extending bar closing times in a handful of cities until 4 AM.
And they are also debating a bill to try and lure away film production from states like Alabama whose legislatures outlaw abortion, by offering them greater state film tax credits (Listen to USC professor Michael Thom talk about whether film subsidies are a good deal for California taxpayers on a recent episode of “Next Round with PRI”.)
The one substantive bill on homelessness they debated would require community colleges to let homeless people camp out in their parking lots. As PRI’s Kerry Jackson said of that proposal in a recent interview on “The Daily Ledger” on One America News Network, “there are going to be costs, sources say tens of millions of dollars, (and you’re) going to have to improve security, you’re going to have to improve lighting on your campus, you’re inviting some issues there that are not too savory.”
On housing, when the Legislature did something, it took a step backwards. Lawmakers blocked a moderate housing reform bill that aimed to spur the building of more and more dense housing near transportation centers. This is despite the fact that the bill has the support of 66 percent of Californians in a recent poll.
But should we expect anything different from Sacramento? Between the Assembly and Senate, around 800 bills will be acted upon by the end of the week. Lawmakers will certainly pat themselves on the back and congratulate one another for a job well done at the end of the week. But at the end of the day, we’ll still have done very little to address the 2 biggest problems facing California today.
Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s communications director.