AEP Legislative Update September 2020

Governor Newsom had until September 30 to sign or veto all legislation passed to him by the Legislature. In total, the Legislature sent him 428 bills, 372 of which were signed into law. The primary categories of bills were regarding COVID-19, racial injustice and policing, housing and rent, and health care.

The combined forces of cost burdens, legislative capacity limits, and timing issues, meant very few bills that AEP was watching closely made it to the Governor’s desk. Please see the list with the final results:

  1. AB 168 (Aguiar Curry) - This bill is sponsored by tribal governments and adds a form of tribal consultation into the streamlined housing process from SB 35 (Wiener, 2018). The language would add tribal cultural resources to the list of resources that cannot be impacted by a project for it to be eligible for ministerial approval. This will require a slightly modified and condensed form of consultation before a project can move forward under SB 35. The bill was signed into law by Governor Newsom and takes effect immediately. However, it does not impact projects already in the SB 35 streamlining process.
  2. AB 275 (Ramos) – This bill requires many state agencies to have a tribal liaison and to give greater weight to tribal traditional knowledge when determining whether an item is an associated funerary object. The bill was signed into law by Governor Newsom.
  3. SB 288 (Wiener) - This bill would grant CEQA exemptions for a number of transportation projects to encourage quicker development as a form of economic stimulus, including, bicycling infrastructure and transit improvement projects. The bill was signed into law by Governor Newsom.
  4. SB 182 (Jackson) – This bill was a leftover bill that failed last year. Near the end of session, many provisions of the bill were deleted, leaving only less controversial provisions. The bill will require local governments to do certain wildfire hazard planning in the safety element of general plans. The planning will need to include a retrofit strategy for existing buildings. Further, the local government would be prohibited from approving any new housing developments in a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone unless the project met specified wildfire risk reduction standards. The bill passed from the legislature but was vetoed by Governor Newsom. In his veto message, he said that the bill created inconsistencies, duplicated existing efforts, and created a loophole for local governments to not address their housing shortages while simultaneously potentially leading to sprawl. He also said his Administration was working on developing recommendations to the RHNA process to streamline housing and the state should reduce new development in wildfire risk areas by further promoting infill projects.

With the legislature now adjourned until December and Governor Newsom done with bill signings, attention will be focused on the November election. Numerous ballot measures and close legislative races will be on the ballot. The Governor will also be primarily focused on addressing COVID-19 and managing the state's many wildfires.