CSAC Bulletin Article

New Laws for 2021: Government, Finance, and Administration

October 21, 2021

Governor Newsom met the October 10 deadline to take action on measures approved by the Legislature and delivered to his desk. To keep Counties informed of new laws that impact them, CSAC will be publishing a series of articles to spotlight those laws in each policy area. This week, the Government, Finance, and Administration (GFA) policy area provides information on new laws impacting broadband, elections, labor relations, and more.

Broadband:

AB 14 (Aguiar-Curry): California Advanced Services Fund extension. AB 14 extends the sunset on the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) surcharge from the end of 2022 to the end of 2032 and closes a loophole that allows VoIP providers to avoid the charge, ensuring the burden is not unfairly shifted to other telecom customers. CSAC supported AB 14, which provides a stable source of funding to meet the state’s broadband deployment goals even after the 2026 federal funding deadline allocated earlier in the year. The measure was approved by Governor Newsom on October 8, 2021 and took effect immediately. 

SB 4 (Gonzalez): California Advanced Services Fund annual limit increase. SB 4 increases the annual limit on funds CASF can collect from $66 million to $150 million and removes the cumulative cap of the Fund. It also includes language addressing speed and local government eligibility and to improve permit streamlining. Both AB 14 and SB 4 provide for long-term reforms needed to maximize this year’s $6 billion investment to close the Digital Divide. CSAC supported the measure, which was approved by Governor Newsom on October 8, 2021, and took effect immediately. 

SB 28 (Caballero): Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006 (DIVCA). This measure expands the authority of the CPUC to collect granular data about digital video and broadband networks in the state and authorizes the CPUC to set customer services requirements for cable providers. DIVCA, which was established 15 years ago, shifted the cable franchise process from local governments to the CPUC. Since its enactment, DIVCA has had little evaluation or reform. CSAC supported SB 28, as it takes a step in the right direction by ensuring the CPUC has the data it needs to enforce its oversight powers. Governor Newsom approved SB 28 on October 8, 2021 and the statute will take effect on January 1, 2022.

Elections:

AB 37 (Berman): Universal vote by mail ballots. This measure requires County elections officials to mail a ballot to every registered voter for every election taking place in 2022 and beyond. AB 37 builds off previous legislation, which required universal mailed ballots for elections that occurred in 2020 and 2021. The measure, approved by Governor Newsom on September 27, 2021, also includes provisions related to vote by mail (VBM) procedures from previous legislation, including extending the deadline for VBM ballots received to be counted from the 3rd day to the 7th day after Election Day. Additionally, each County must provide at least one VBM drop-off location per 30,000 registered voters. Counties with fewer than 30,000 registered voters are required to provide at least one VBM drop-off location.

SB 594 (Glazer): Redistricting. SB 594 aligns the elections calendar for the 2022 primary to account for a later state redistricting timeline. The measure reduces the time and number of signatures required for candidates to collect signatures-in-lieu of a filing fee and it adjusts the timing of the start of the nomination process. At the time of the measure’s approval of the Legislature, it was unclear if the California Supreme Court would grant the 2020 California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s petition to extend the deadline to submit the final maps to the Secretary of State until January 14, 2021. However, the Supreme Court denied the request on September 22 and the deadline for the final maps remains December 27, 2021. Of particular importance to Counties, SB 594 was amended before passage to clarify that the requirement for Counties to “adopt” supervisorial district boundaries can be satisfied by either ordinance or resolution. This clarification ensures that Counties can maximize the amount of time dedicated to the map-drawing process. CSAC supported SB 594, which took effect immediately following Governor Newsom’s signature on September 27, 2021.

Labor Relations:

AB 237 (Gray): Health care coverage during extended strikes. AB 237 requires public agencies to continue to provide medical insurance coverage for workers out on extended strikes. The measure was brought forward in response to a University of California policy that identifies a strike as a form of unapproved leave that may result in the termination of health care coverage. Although the University of California and other public agencies are unaware of any instances where an employer has threatened to discontinue an employee’s health coverage because of a strike, Governor Newsom signed AB 237, and the new statute takes effect on January 1, 2022.

SB 270 (Durazo): Disclosure of employee information. SB 270 allows public employee unions to file an unfair labor practice charge before the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) against public employers that fail to fully or accurately disclose employee information to public employee unions. Of particular importance to Counties, SB 270 limits the number of times a public employer can cure violations to three times in a 12-month period. SB 270 was signed by Governor Newsom on September 27, 2021, and goes into effect on January 1, 2022.

Local Government:

AB 361 (R. Rivas): Use of teleconferencing during open meetings. AB 361 provides, until January 1, 2024, exemptions to teleconferenced public meeting requirements for local legislative bodies and certain state bodies during states of emergency that make it unsafe to meet in person. CSAC strongly supported this measure, as it provides Counties with the opportunity to continue holding public meetings remotely as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact local agencies’ ability to meet safely in person. AB 361 was signed by Governor Newsom on September 16 and took effect immediately. However, Governor Newsom quickly issued an Executive Order suspending the application of AB 361 until October 1, 2021, when a previous Brown Act Executive Order expired.

AB 428 (Mayes): County Board of Supervisor term limits. AB 428 establishes a minimum of two terms for any future changes to supervisorial term limits. Importantly, it also clarifies the constitutional provision that Boards of Supervisors are responsible for prescribing compensation for all County officers, including the board members themselves. CSAC supported AB 428, which recognizes that limiting elected County Supervisors to single term limits severely hinders the development of expertise necessary for meaningful and informed policymaking. Governor Newsom signed the bill on October 4, 2021, and the measure takes effect on January 1, 2022.

Personnel Management:

SB 657 (Ochoa Bogh): Electronic documents. Existing law requires California employers to post various notices in the workplace. For the most part, these notices are designed to alert employees of their rights under federal and state law.  For example, employers are required to post various notices about employee rights, information about minimum wage, health and safety rules, and more. SB 657 permits an employer to provide these notices to employees electronically but still requires employers to physically post notices in the workplace. Governor Newsom approved the measure in July and it will take effect on January 1, 2022.

Retirement:

SB 278 (Leyva): CalPERS disallowed compensation penalty. This measure requires public employers to reimburse CalPERS and pay a penalty when CalPERS deems part of a pension to be unlawful after a member has retired. Specifically, public agencies will be required to pay 20 percent of the current actuarial value of benefits deemed unlawful by CalPERS as a penalty, even when CalPERS has previously deemed the benefits lawful when reviewing the MOU. Most of the penalty funds would go to the affected retirees, though a small portion would go to CalPERS. The measure was approved by Governor Newsom on September 27 and will go into effect on January 1, 2022.

Risk Management:

AB 654 (Reyes): COVID-19 exposure notification. AB 654 clarifies provisions and provides beneficial clean-up to last year’s AB 685 (Reyes), which established reporting requirements related to workplace COVID-19 exposures. CSAC successfully advocated for amendments that removed the initial requirement for CDPH to publish worksite-specific (i.e., exposure address) information about COVID-19 outbreaks. CSAC supported the final version of the bill, which was signed by Governor Newsom on October 5, 2021, and took effect immediately.

SB 296 (Limón): Code enforcement safety standards. SB 296 requires each local jurisdiction that employs code enforcement officers to develop safety standards for their officers. The measure allows for broad flexibility and allows local employing agencies to develop guidelines suited to their own jurisdictions. Governor Newsom approved the measure earlier this month, and it takes effect on January 1, 2022.

SB 606 (Gonzalez): Workplace safety: Egregious violations. This bill broadens Cal/OSHA’s enforcement authority by establishing a rebuttable presumption that an employer’s written policy that violates specified health and safety regulations exists at all employer’s worksites if certain conditions are met. Additionally, the bill adds the definition of an “egregious violation” that, if met, carries specified additional penalties for employers. CSAC championed many amendments over the legislative session to reduce the harmful impacts of the measure. Counties should take time to review the details of this legislation to mitigate the potential for enforcement penalties. Governor Newsom signed SB 606 on September 27, and the new statute takes effect January 1, 2022.

Property Taxes:

SB 219 (McGuire): Delinquent penalties and fees. SB 219 provides County tax collectors the explicit authority to cancel penalties and fees resulting in delinquent property tax payments for taxpayers who have experienced financial hardship due to a shelter-in-place order. Prior to Executive Order N-61-20, it was unclear whether the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic qualified as a legal cause for a property tax penalty waiver. SB 219 builds off of the previous order by providing County tax collectors narrowly tailored flexibility to assist those who need it most during a crisis without jeopardizing county revenue support.

SB 539 (Hertzberg): Proposition 19 implementation. This measure provides clarity and clean-up necessary for County assessors and the Board of Equalization to implement provisions of Proposition 19, which was approved by the voters in November 2020. Importantly, SB 539 clarifies that that, when a property is transferred between parents (or grandparents) and children (or grandchildren), the transferee must continue using that property as their principal residence in order to continue receiving the tax benefit of the inherited family home. CSAC supported this measure, which took effect immediately following Governor Newsom’s approval on September 30, 2021.

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