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California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law during the month of September, hundreds of bills with potentially far-reaching implications.
The first major piece of legislation Newsom signed was AB 257, otherwise known as the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act, on Labor Day. Authored by Democrat Chris Holden of Pasadena, the bill creates a 10-member “Fast Food Council” for the Golden State, which will establish minimum standards for wages, working hours and other working conditions within the fast food industry.
In effect, the bill creates a form of sectoral bargaining that covers all workers within a sector of the economy and is more commonly found in other countries. AB 257 was bitterly opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which dubbed it “anathema to American labor policy,” and predicted it will “result in ... economic calamity.”
Newsom, however, said the bill was needed to give “hardworking fast-food workers a stronger voice and seat at the table to set fair wages and critical health and safety standards across the industry.”
Members of the Fast Food Council will be appointed by the Governor, the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee and will establish terms of employment for fast food workers in California.
Fast food chains, which derive a sizable portion of their revenues from California, the birthplace of fast food, lobbied hard against AB 257, potentially due to fears that its style of sectoral bargaining could spread throughout the U.S.
Amidst growing concern about the data privacy of kids, AB 587 requires social media companies to publish their policies on extremism, hate speech, harassment and disinformation ‑ and track and report how they enforce those policies.
“California will not stand by as social media is weaponized to spread hate and disinformation that threaten our communities and foundational values as a country,” Newsom said in a press release announcing his signing of the bill. “Californians deserve to know how these platforms are impacting our public discourse, and this action brings much-needed transparency and accountability to the policies that shape the social media content we consume every day.”
Newsom also signed AB 2273, otherwise known as the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, which requires any business serving up web pages likely to be accessed by California youths to consider the children’s best interests when designing their sites. The bill is expected to impact websites published anywhere in the United States and could end anonymous browsing on the internet.
“As a parent, I am terrified of the effects technology addiction and saturation are having on our children and their mental health,” First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom said in a press release announcing the bill’s signing. “While social media and the internet are integral to the way we as a global community connect and communicate, our children still deserve real safeguards like AB 2273 to protect their wellbeing as they grow and develop.”
That is certainly the hope of proponents of SB 1338, which requires California’s 58 counties to establish a new court system to serve people with mental illness.
The Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment, or CARE, Court proposal is intended to create a new system to treat California's severely mentally ill who sadly often find themselves on the street. Under the new system, the family or friends of mentally ill people living on the street, as well as first responders or behavioral health workers, will be able to petition the court for services for the homeless individuals.
To qualify, the court will be required to find that the homeless people in question are either a danger to themselves or others, due to untreated schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder.
Newsom also signed an array of bills enacting some of the most aggressive climate policies in the country:
“California is taking the most aggressive action on climate our nation has ever seen,” Newsom said in a press release announcing the signings. “We’re cleaning the air we breathe, holding the big polluters accountable, and ushering in a new era for clean energy. That’s climate action done the California Way – and we’re not only doubling down, we’re just getting started.”
Another package of bills Newsom signed in September dealt with pay equity and other women's rights issues.
“Over the last two years, our Caucus has been working tirelessly to help reverse the devastating impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on women, especially women of color,” said Garcia, the chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, in a press release. “The reality is that these issues existed long before the pandemic, but the pandemic further exacerbated and highlighted the work we need to do to lift up all women, especially low-income women of color, and given us a greater sense of urgency.”
A third package of bills Newsom signed dealt specifically with birth control and abortion:
“An alarming number of states continue to outlaw abortion and criminalize women, and it’s more important than ever to fight like hell for those who need these essential services,” Newsom said in a press release. “We’re doing everything we can to protect people from any retaliation for accessing abortion care while also making it more affordable to get contraceptives.”
California legislators are fond of saying that the nation follows the Golden State’s lead when it comes to laws. Whether that is the case with this year’s stack of new laws remains to be seen. But for better or worse, this session solidified California’s stance as the bluest of blue states.
--By SNCJ Correspondent Brian Joseph
Please visit our webpage for more information on the bills mentioned in this article, or to speak with a State Net representative about how the State Net legislative and regulatory tracking solution can help you react quickly to relevant legislative and regulatory changes.
As of September 15, eight states had enacted bills this year protecting access to legal abortion, according to data compiled by the Guttmacher Institute. Nearly the same number of states had enacted legislation banning all or most abortions.