SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers returned to work on Monday to tackle a daunting list of challenges that include climate concerns and a growing homeless population — problems magnified by election-year politics.
Members of the state Assembly’s Democratic majority kicked off the second year of the two-year legislative session by announcing California’s version of the “Green New Deal” — an ambitious climate proposal that could impose new rules to reduce emissions from cars and trucks.
California is already one of the most aggressive states when it comes to addressing climate change, including a state law that requires all of the state’s energy to come from renewable and zero-carbon sources by 2045.
“We think that’s not fast enough,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta, a Democrat from Alameda and the primary author of the legislation.
It’s unclear what changes the bill would make. An early version of the legislation sets goals for doubling the availability of affordable housing and public transportation by 2030 while also reducing “disparate standard of living indices for historically impacted communities of color.”
But Bonta said the proposal could also address emission standards for cars and trucks.
“This is not something we just decided to do. This is something science is telling us we have to do,” Bonta said.
About 3 Million Californians Were Left in the Dark Last October
Complicating any big legislative proposal this year: A compressed election calendar. Lawmakers now will face primary elections in March instead of June, potentially making it more difficult to vote on politically sensitive issues.
Aside from the environmental proposal, state lawmakers announced Monday that they were introducing bills addressing hot-button topics including the planned power outages that blacked out much of the state last fall.
Democratic Assemblyman Kansen Chu of San Jose said two of his bills will deal with the power outages that utilities used to try to prevent their equipment from sparking wildfires.
The first would require power utility companies to provide information about the shutoffs in languages earmarked for individual ratepayers and provide help for those who rely on electricity for their medical needs. The second would give the California Public Utility Commission authority the power to decide if the shutoffs are necessary and reasonable and if the utility company should have to compensate those affected.
“About 3 million Californians were left in the dark last October with little to no support from the very same companies they pay monthly,” Chu said in a statement. He added that the utilities’ poor communication, sloppy rollout, lack of support and proper compensation “were unacceptable. I want to hold these companies accountable and ensure that these power shutoffs are not the norm.”
Separately, Chu said he would introduce bills making it easier for people to take time off from work or school to seek mental health treatment.