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Good morning, California. It’s Monday, August 31.
Legislative session ends today
The fate of hundreds of thousands of California renters teetering on the brink of eviction — and of the landlords who depend on their rent payments — hangs in the balance of a cliffhanger vote lawmakers will take today.
Their vote on a controversial compromise Gov. Gavin Newsom struck with lawmakers Friday comes on the final day of the legislative session, and is likely to yield contentious debate lasting late into the night. No one seems thrilled with the deal, which doesn’t extend rent forgiveness to tenants or money to help landlords meet mortgage payments, CalMatters’ Matt Levin reports.
Without it, however, Newsom warned Friday about “the prospects of millions, literally millions of people being evicted or at least subject to eviction.”
With no time to propose an alternative solution, some lawmakers say this deal will act as a bridge until next year — by which time they hope the feds will have stepped in with financial assistance for renters.
Assemblyman David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat: “What the governor has announced … is an imperfect but necessary solution to a colossal problem. … Let’s be clear this is a temporary fix.”
For the bill to take effect, two-thirds of lawmakers in both the state Senate and Assembly will have to vote for it — a high bar, but one legislators are cautiously optimistic it will clear. Here are some of its key provisions:
Tenants financially impacted by COVID-19 cannot be evicted for missed rent between March and Aug. 31. But they must pay 25% of their rent between Sept. 1 and Jan. 31, 2021 to avoid being evicted in February.
Evictions for lease violations other than non-payment of rent can proceed Sept. 2.
Renters are legally liable for all missed rent, and landlords can pursue missed payments in small claims court starting March 1, 2021.
What about other bills?
The evictions deal is just one of hundreds of bills that lawmakers are churning through before leaving the Capitol until December.
Here’s a look at some major — or controversial — proposals and where they stand.
Counties must remain in their tier for at least 21 days before progressing to a less restrictive tier. If counties fail to meet the metrics for their current tier for two consecutive weeks, they will move back to a more restrictive tier.
2.Will California expand mental health care coverage?
California will lead the country on mental health and addiction coverage if Newsom signs into law a bill lawmakers passed this weekend, CalMatters’ Jocelyn Wiener reports. Current state law requires health plans to cover medically necessary treatment of nine serious mental illnesses. The bill would significantly expand coverage of mental health issues, including substance use disorder and addiction. Numerous attempts to change the state’s parity laws have failed in recent years amid opposition from the insurance industry, which also fought against this bill. But the traumatic events of recent months — including a pandemic, recession, police killings of Black people and wildfires — have underscored the need for mental health and addiction treatment, which for many Californians remains out of reach.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat who authored the bill: “Imagine being diagnosed with Stage 1 cancer and being told your insurance will kick in when you get to Stage 4 cancer. That’s what we tolerate for mental health and addiction.”
California Association of Health Plans, which opposed the bill: “This unnecessary bill is based on a false premise that somehow health plan enrollees are not receiving mental health care services at parity with medical care.”
Newsom: “(Diaz) has overseen incredible transformation as well as unparalleled challenges at (the corrections department) during his time there and has truly met the moment with leadership and humility.”
Diaz: “I am confident that our department’s transformative focus on rehabilitation will continue to result in safer prisons, healthier communities, and lower recidivism.”
4.California sues Trump — again
California sued the Trump administration Friday in what Attorney General Xavier Becerra said marked his 100th lawsuit against the federal government. (Due to different definitions of what constitutes a lawsuit, CalMatters’ tracker shows 90.) More than half deal with federal environmental laws, including Friday’s — in which Becerra challenges a July rule that gives the federal government more freedom to make decisions about energy and infrastructure projects and the management of federal public lands while taking less time to consider their impact on the environment and public health.
Becerra: “Our goal is simple: preserve the public’s voice in government decision-making as federal projects threaten to harm the health of our families in our own backyards.”