Bill Needed for S.F. Public Bank Clears State Legislature

San Francisco is one of several cities to explore taking taxpayer funds out of Wall Street and into a public bank.

A state bill necessary for San Francisco to launch its own bank finished its run through the California Legislature on Friday.

With the passing of Assembly Bill 857, San Francisco and other California cities cleared a key obstacle to open a public bank. Doing so, advocates say, would keep the city’s $12 billion budget far from Wall Street and its private prisons and oil pipeline investments while insulating it from another banking crisis. Instead, residents would have transparency and can push to invest in things like affordable housing, student loans, and renewable energy. 

Since 2018, a task force has studied what a public bank could look like in San Francisco, which the Treasurer’s Office turned into a report for supervisors. The full board unanimously co-sponsored and approved a resolution in February to approve a bill similar to AB 857 but it doesn’t necessarily mean all of them are committed to seeing it through. 

“San Francisco can be the first to start a public bank, and our elected officials need to put stakeholders hurt first and worst by Wall Street at the decision-making table where business plans for the bank will be decided,” said Jackie Fielder of the San Francisco Public Bank Coalition, which includes folks from other local groups like Berniecrats and the Tenants Union.

Wall Street, unsurprisingly, isn’t thrilled with the “misguided” idea, as the California Bankers Association dubbed it. Assemblymember David Chiu, who represents San Francisco, hinted at a fight when he introduced the bill in March. With the support of groups like the Public Bank Coalition and PODER, it passed and awaits Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature.

“California is putting the people before Wall Street profits,” Chiu said. “This bill has the potential to do tremendous good by ensuring the public’s money is reinvested in our local communities. I look forward to the governor signing this historic piece of legislation.”

Newsom hasn’t publicly stated his approval or disapproval of the bill but called for a state-run bank during his campaign. He has until Oct. 13 to sign the bill.

UPDATE, 9/17: Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer introduced a resolution on Tuesday urging Newsom to sign AB 857. 

“I want San Francisco to be first in line,” Fewer told fellow supervisors.

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