State politicians spent a year writing legislation, arguing about it, and voting on it, and finally sent 1,042 potential new laws to Governor Gavin Newsom to get his signature and become laws.
Of those, Newsom signed 870, and now politicians and analysts are trying to figure out what can be gleaned from the governor’s decisions. For one thing, it looks like coworkers are getting used to their new boss.
“It’s the first year, so you cut some slack,” Ted Lempert, an expert on California politics, tells SF Weekly. “[The legislature] is just figuring out his style.”
Lempert, currently a lecturer on state politics at UC Berkeley, is a former California Assemblymember who worked with three different governors during his two non-consecutive terms. It takes time, he says, for the legislature to read each governor’s signals about their views on various bills.
Why can’t the governor be more explicit, you might be wondering.
“There’s two main reasons,” Lempert says. “One, the bill can change right up until the last minute. One tiny change could take you from support to oppose,” he says. “The other is to help preserve the governor’s power.”
With that in mind, here are some of the bills Newsom signed that could have a big impact on San Francisco and the Bay Area.
This bill redefines which workers count as employees and which ones can still be labeled as independent contractors. This has drawn national attention as it has a huge impact on companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash. While the law is mostly aimed at gig economy giants, it also has effects on industries like truck drivers, freelance journalists (read: SF Weekly), and private investigators. The goal is to force companies to compensate workers fairly when those workers are doing the work of full- or part-time employees. In practice, the law could lead to those companies finding loopholes that would allow them to continue paying people less than they’re worth.
Bottom line: If you’re part of the gig economy, your life is going to change come January. How much will depend on the companies you currently do freelance work for and how much of that work you perform for each company.
Kids in California will get a little more shut eye thanks to this bill. Middle schools and high schools will be prevented from starting school before 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., respectively, and they have until 2022 to make the adjustment. Studies show that adolescents need more sleep than adults, so the hope here is that students end up healthier and attend school more as a result.
Bottom line: Kids will get more sleep, and school officials will likely lose sleep in meeting the logistics of this law.
Sometimes pharmaceutical companies pay rival companies to delay producing a similar, competing drug. The idea is that Company A maintains a stranglehold on a particular drug market and Company B gets some money and neither has to go to court over patent infringement. Both the companies make money, but this arrangement is less ideal for consumers, who must pay whatever Company A wants to charge for the drug while waiting for Company B to come to market with a generic version. AB 824 prevents such arrangements, so this could have a positive effect on your pocketbook.
Bottom line: Some of your prescription drugs might be cheaper. Eventually.
California, in case you hadn’t heard, has a housing crisis. While the sky-high rents, home prices, and number of unhoused folks across the state all point to the need for more housing, not every community is on board. This bill stops cities and counties from making new laws or ordinances that would make it harder to make new houses. By preemptively removing new bureaucratic obstacles to housing production, it should be easier for developers to build more projects faster.
Bottom line: It’s slightly more likely that housing will get built.
It hasn’t been a great few years for recycling. In 2018, China, which handled millions of tons of other countries’ waste annually, banned the import of said waste. The ban had a cascading effect on recycling companies everywhere. Earlier this year California’s largest recycling company, Replanet, went out of business, closing 11 recycling centers in the Bay Area. This bill allocates $10 million in subsidies to help keep existing recycling centers open.
Bottom line: Recycling centers will stay open for the time being while lawmakers look for a longer term solution.
Students at University of California and California State University campuses will have easier access to abortion as a result of this bill, which requires student health centers on those campuses to provide abortion medication starting in 2023.
Bottom line: College students at state schools in California will have easier control over their own bodies.