Renter protections, police reform: Which bills passed during the California legislative session?

The California legislative session wrapped up just before 1:30 a.m. today. It was a manic night with time limits on bill debates. Most Republican state senators had to self-quarantine because Senator Brian Jones tested positive for coronavirus last week.

“In the Senate, it was really unusual. We’ve never seen anything like this before. The entire Republican caucus, except for one member, was told they could not come to the floor of the Legislature … to vote because they had been possibly exposed to COVID-19,” says Katie Orr, politics and government reporter for KQED. “So they were all participating remotely via Zoom, and they were very upset.” 

Senators were able to cast votes, but they felt sidelined because they couldn’t be in the chamber, Orr  says.

One big piece of legislation that came out of the session was the emergency deal that protects tenants from eviction if they’re unable to pay rent due to COVID-19. The protection lasts through January.  

“Starting in September, tenants must pay 25% of their rent or face eviction when this moratorium expires. So they still have to pay something, but this was an agreement landlords felt they could live with because many of them say they count on that money to pay the mortgage,” says Orr. 

The lawmakers also debated police reform. A few measures passed: A ban on chokeholds and carotid artery restraints (like the one used on George Floyd in Minneapolis), and a requirement that the state attorney general’s office investigate police-involved shootings that lead to deaths of unarmed civilians. 

However, some bigger measures didn’t come up for a vote because the legislature ran out of time, Orr says. That includes a bill that would decertify police officers who are convicted of serious crimes, and a ban on projectiles and tear gas used by police to break up protestors.

“This is the end of a two-year session. And that’s important because in the Constitution, it says they have to be done by August 31 at midnight. There is no wiggle room there. … Some of these bills got a vote in the Assembly with five minutes to go, but they didn’t get their final … vote in the Senate … because they ran out of time. … So it really was a shocking way for the legislative session to end.” Orr says.  

— Written by Amy Ta, produced by Brian Hardzinski