The 2019-2020 legislative session ended on August 31. During this two-year period, 5,423 bills of all types were introduced. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we had two unexpected shutdowns, and in the last weeks some members were absent and Senators were forced to vote remotely. At one point, there was an unsuccessful attempt to limit Senate debate to save time. In a normal year, the fate of much important legislation is often decided during the final few days, but this year was even more hectic.
Even so, two of my bills passed right at the end. AB 1304 supports successful reentry for those returning home from prison by helping to break the cycle of substance use and recidivism, save lives and provide a significant return on investment. SB 855, a bill that I coauthored, updates California’s 21-year old Mental Health Parity Act to increase access to treatment by requiring insurers to cover medically necessary services. Both bills passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Other legislation was directed at stimulating our ailing economy. An attempt to repeal AB 5 failed. This is the bill that limits independent contractors work. But two bills that modify its disastrous economic impact passed. One extends the sunset on exemptions for newspaper distributors and creates other preferences for local news organizations, and another attempts to fix some administrative issues and add additional exemptions. We also approved tax credits for small businesses that hire new employees. The legislation targets employers with less than 100 workers and that suffered a 50% loss of income during the pandemic. And finally, we’ve asked the Governor to call a special session to deal more thoroughly with the state’s economic problems.
The shutdowns, COVID, and the ongoing economic crisis, and what’s shaping up to be a severe wildfire season, will make 2020 a year we remember.