Legislative Round-Up: Broadband, Brown Act, and Labor Bills
April is always a busy month in the Legislature, and this year is no different. Tomorrow, April 29, marks the deadline for policy committees to hear and report all fiscal bills introduced in their house of origin. As the vast majority of bills are keyed fiscal, policy committees have heard thousands of bills over the last few months. Below you will find an update on key bills the CSAC Government Finance and Administration team are currently tracking.
AB 1934 (Rodriguez): This measure would establish a new grant program within the Office of Emergency Services to provide funding for fairgrounds, including county fairgrounds, to build and upgrade broadband infrastructure. Although the current language of the bill lacks an appropriation, the bill states the intent to dedicate at least $125 million for this program. CSAC supports AB 1934, which was approved this week on the Assembly Communications and Conveyance consent calendar.
AB 2256 (Quirk-Silva): This bill would add a local government official, appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, to the membership of the Middle Mile Advisory Committee. This bill is sponsored by Monterey County and co-sponsored by CSAC. AB 2256 passed out of the Assembly and is currently pending committee referral in the Senate.
AB 2748 (Holden): This bill would significantly strengthen DIVCA, the state law that replaced local franchises with a state franchise system for digital video services. The companies that provide digital video services also provide broadband in those same service areas. Previously, counties and cities could negotiate franchises locally with cable and telecom companies to ensure they could not cherry-pick which neighborhoods they wanted to serve. CSAC supports AB 2748, which passed the Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee this week and now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
SB 857 (Hueso): This measure would extend the sunset date for both the California High-Cost Fund A (CHCF-A) and the California High-Cost Fund-B (CHCF-B) in order to continue to provide affordable basic telephone service to rural California. These two funds were established to create subsidies that ensure reasonable rates for basic telephone service in many rural and hard to reach areas of the State. CSAC supports SB 857, which is currently pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
AB 1944 (Lee): This bill would authorize members of legislative bodies to teleconference from a remote location without making the address of that location public, so long as the legislative body provides a video stream for members of the public and allows the public to provide public comment via telephone or videoconference. CSAC supports AB 1944, which provides flexibility to local agencies in order to increase public participation and transparency without mandating a one-size-fits-all approach. This non-fiscal bill is scheduled for a hearing in Assembly Local Government Committee on Wednesday, May 4.
AB 2449 (B. Rubio): This bill also authorizes members of legislative bodies to teleconference from a remote location without making the address of that location public but has different requirements for doing so. Under AB 2449, at least a quorum of members would need to participate in person from a single location identified on the agenda that is open to the public and within the jurisdiction of the local agency. Additionally, members of the legislative body attending by teleconference must participate in both audio and video formats, and members of the public must be provided call-in and internet-based access for attending and participating. Like AB 1944, AB 2449 is an option, not a requirement, for local agencies to use. CSAC supports AB 2449, which is scheduled for a hearing in Assembly Local Government Committee on Wednesday, May 4.
SB 1100 (Cortese): This bill, which CSAC is a co-sponsoring with Urban Counties of California, would clearly state in statute that the presiding member of a legislative body can remove individuals who are disrupting a public meeting. Before removal, the presiding member would need to warn the disruptive individual and give the individual a chance to cease their disruptive behavior. SB 1100 is currently pending a vote on the Senate Floor.
Labor and Employment:
AB 2463 (Lee): This bill would extend the public works exemption for the use of volunteers, which is currently set to expire on January 1, 2024, until January 1, 2031. CSAC supports AB 2463, as counties rely on volunteer services to complete charitable, humanitarian, and other civic projects while meeting budget demands. This bill passed out of Assembly Appropriations on the consent calendar on April 27, 2022 and will now move to the Assembly Floor.
AB 2693 (Reyes): This measure would extend COVID-19 notice requirements in the workplace until January 2025, including for employees who were not in close contact. CSAC opposes this bill, as it applies requirements that are no longer appropriate as the state moves into the endemic phase of COVID-19. This bill passed out of Assembly Appropriations on April 27, 2022 and will move to the Assembly Floor.
SB 931 (Leyva): This bill would require the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to impose civil penalties on public employers if it finds the employers deterred or discouraged employees from exercising collective bargaining rights. Additionally, the bill requires employers to pay attorney’s fees unless PERB finds the claim to be frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless. CSAC has an “oppose unless amended” position on the bill, which is pending a hearing in Senate Appropriations Committee. While the bill was recently amended to allow attorney’s fees for frivolous claims as determined by PERB, CSAC is still seeking amendments to (1) authorize attorney’s fees for any prevailing party and (2) lower the penalty violation from $100,000 to $10,000.
SB 1044 (Durazo): This measure would prohibit an employer from taking or threatening disciplinary action against an employee for not reporting or leaving a workplace when an employee feels unsafe due to a state of emergency. The bill also permits employees to access their mobile devices to use in emergencies. CSAC opposes this measure, which is currently on the suspense file in Senate Appropriations Committee.
SB 1127 (Atkins): This bill does three main things for specified firefighters and peace officers for certain categories of illnesses. First, this bill substantially reduces the current 90-day review period for employers to 60 days for all injuries and employees, and for certain injuries and illnesses, including hernia, heart trouble, pneumonia, or tuberculosis, among others. For specified members of law enforcement or specified first responses, this bill would reduce those time periods to only 30 days. Second, for specified firefighters and peace officers with a cancer claim, this bill would increase the number of compensable disability payments to 240 weeks without limitation as to the time from the date of injury. That is up from current law which limits the number of compensable weeks from extending more than 104 weeks within a period of 5 years from the date of injury. Third, this bill requires that if liability has been unreasonably rejected (as determined by the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board) for specific claims, including hernia, heart trouble, pneumonia, or tuberculosis, among others, for specific members of law enforcement or first responses, the penalty be 5-times the amount of benefits unreasonably delayed to the rejection, capping liability at $100,000. Current law authorizes an increased payment of up to 25% or $10,000, whichever is less. CSAC is opposed to this bill, which is currently on the suspense file in Senate Appropriations Committee.