A Year In Policy Preview
By the CSAC Legislative Team
The Legislature has convened, the election is certified, and thoughts here in Sacramento turn to the legislative presents or lumps of coal that might await counties next year. While a hundred or so bills have already been introduced, they are just a taste of the few thousand that cross the desk in the Capitol before the end of February.
While no one can predict with certainty which policies will have passed by this time next year, the CSAC Policy Teams put together this list of continuing and emerging issues they are fairly sure will be raised in bills and budget proposal. Now, this is by no means an exhaustive list and rest assured that no matter what issues of county interest or concern crop up, CSAC will be in the conversation, whether it takes place in person or in cyberspace.
The pandemic’s move to remote work and school has brought into high relief the stunning gulf of inequities caused by the Digital Divide and legislators have heard the call for changes. The California Broadband Council will be meeting one last time this week before issuing their action plan. That plan will come just before the Governor’s January budget proposals, but after the several bills that have already arrived.
Those bills deal with exactly the issues that CSAC’s board of directors has made a priority for the association this year: significant funding for infrastructure in the form of a bond and reforms to the programs that subsidize infrastructure. Since a general obligation bond would not provide funding until 2023 at the earliest, it is critical for the state and federal governments to increase resources available for building to unserved and underserved communities.
The Governor is set to release the state’s Master Plan for Aging this month after more than a year of stakeholder input and discussion. The stakeholder report submitted to the Governor for consideration highlighted the long-term services and supports system, housing affordability, and ending poverty as the three most urgent issues that need to be addressed. It is anticipated that the Administration’s Master Plan will address these and other key issues across the full spectrum of aging programs. The release of the Master Plan will create a unique opportunity for action on aging-related policies and programs in 2021.
CSAC has actively participated in the Master Plan process focusing on the key principles of local flexibility, building on local strengths, increased coordination, and adequate resources. As the Master Plan moves into the implementation phase, CSAC will continue to remain engaged on recommendations related to In-Home Supportive Services, Adult Protective Services, Public Administrators / Public Guardians / Public Conservators, Alzheimer’s disease, and services administered by Area Agencies on Aging.
Many housing bills were included in the Senate’s housing packing last year, but either failed to pass in committee or ran out of time for concurrence votes on last night of session. Another subset of bills dealt with emergency relief for tenants impacted by COVID-19. With key provisions of AB 3088 (Chiu, 2020) expiring as of January 31, 2020, the Legislature faces a quick timeline to extend pandemic-related tenant protections.
Additional bills of interest include a constitutional amendment to waive local voter approval requirements when cities or counties invest in affordable housing development, a bond measure focused on deeply-affordable homes for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, and a reintroduction of a bill included in last year’s Assembly package on residential impact fees.
Climate, Wildfire & Resiliency
The Legislature will continue to focus on a variety of topics related to improving our statewide resiliency to disasters and adapting to the impacts of climate change, including measures that focus on wildfires and fire prevention. It is expected that at least one bond measure will be re-introduced through the legislative process next year, building on the work done in 2019 and 2020. CSAC will continue to engage in these discussions and work to explore additional opportunities for funding of pre-hazard mitigation and resiliency funding. The issue of homeowners insurance in fire prone areas will continue to be a topic of conversation in the Legislature and regulatory agency. CSAC supported new options proposed in 2020 to allow for an Insurance Market Action Plan, which was ultimately not passed by the Legislature. The Legislature is likely to weigh in on insurance options within wildfire-prone areas in the new session.
Resource Recovery & Waste Management
The Legislature will continue to focus on legislation that shifts more of the burden of recycling onto manufacturers, particularly in the plastics arena. Similar to last session’s SB 54 (Allen) and AB 1080 (Gonzalez), local governments will continue to engage on these measures to help reduce plastic waste and increase domestic markets for recyclable materials. In addition, funding for waste and recycling infrastructure will continue to be a topic of interest for local governments including through the Cap and Trade program and various resources bonds. Finally, legislation will likely be introduced to include funding and state support for the implementation of California’s organics recycling law under, SB 1383 (Lara 2016), and to address potential changes to this law given shifts in the recycling stream during the pandemic.
Local control and the ability to ban specific commercial cannabis operations have continually come under assault by segments of the cannabis industry and within portions the Legislature. On the horizon, we see the Administration again proposing to consolidate various regulatory functions at the state level through the budget process.
The state’s ambitious plan to reform its massive Medi-Cal program—which provides health, behavioral health, and oral health care to a third of the state’s population—will be back in the spotlight this year. The Governor’s January budget plan is likely to propose directing some funding to the initiative, though possibly less than the $700 million provided in the current year. The California Department of Healthcare Services will move forward implementing Enhanced Case Management (whole-person care addressing clinical and non-clinical needs of high-need beneficiaries) and In Lieu of Services (flexible wrap-around services as a substitute for high-cost services such as emergency room visits), as well Behavioral Health payment reform (transitioning counties from a cost-based reimbursement methodology to a structure meant to incentivize outcomes and quality over volume and cost). If Xavier Becerra is confirmed as the new US Health and Human Services Secretary, it could prove easier to seek funding from that quarter.
Lastly, counties can expect multiple bills on the subject of conservatorships, from efforts to broaden the definition of gravely disabled to data gathering. The Governor will continue to explore conservatorships as part of the homelessness effort and family advocates will continue to push for more conservatorships overall. CSAC will join affiliate California Association of Public Administrators, Public Guardians, and Public Conservators in seeking additional funding for these services.