California Lawmakers Hold Hundreds of Bills in Suspense Amid Budget Deficit

California Lawmakers Hold Hundreds of Bills in Suspense Amid Budget Deficit

The California State Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

5/19/2024

Updated: 5/22/2024

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SACRAMENTO—With the state facing a significant budget deficit, California’s Appropriations committees held May 16 more than 300 bills with fiscal impacts during the first of two annual so-called suspense file hearings.
Known as “suspense day,” the hearings are a fast-paced run-through of bills placed on suspense because they impact the general fund by $50,000 or any fund by $150,000.
No debate or discussions are allowed, as bills are passed or held with votes already pre-determined in most instances.
California state Senate Appropriations Committee suspense file hearing in Sacramento on May 16, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

California state Senate Appropriations Committee suspense file hearing in Sacramento on May 16, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Citing budget constraints and spending concerns, lawmakers held nearly 32 percent of the bills under consideration—approximately 7 percent more proposals than the historical average.
The Assembly’s Appropriations Committee ultimately passed 435 bills to the floor for consideration while holding 233 measures.
Notable bills held include Assembly Bill 2200—authored by Assemblyman Ash Kalra to provide guaranteed healthcare for all.
Some critical of the decision expressed disappointment by questioning the suspense file process by which many suggest “bills go to die in silence.”
“The appropriations suspense file is one of the most anti-democratic institutions in [California] government,” a supporter of AB 2200 posted May 16 on X. “It has taken what is supposed to be a committee to review the fiscal impact of bills and turned it into an all-powerful gatekeeper that lets legislators kill bills in silence.”
Another now in the suspense file, Assembly Bill 1999 would limit fixed utility charges and require review by the Legislature before the state’s utility commission can increase such charges.
A measure to prohibit employers from contacting employees after hours, Assembly Bill 2751—authored by Assemblyman Matt Haney and better known as the “right to disconnect bill”—was also held by the committee.
Additionally, a bill introduced after a similar measure was vetoed last year by California Gov. Gavin Newsom—Assembly Bill 2415 would provide cash assistance to aged, blind, and disabled illegal immigrants—was also held.
Those that passed the hurdle include Assembly Constitutional Amendment 16, authored by Assemblyman Isaac Bryan, which adds the right to clean air, water, and a healthy environment to the state’s Constitution.
Another that will instruct public schools to consider the impact of homework on students and emphasize quality over quantity for outside assignments, Assembly Bill 2999, will also proceed to the Assembly floor for debate.
Assembly Bill 3089, which calls for the state to formally apologize for slavery and to install a plaque in the Capitol building, also cleared the committee.
On the Senate side, that body’s Appropriations Committee held 87 bills out of 341 considered.
Two proposals related to the state’s Reparations Commission’s recommendations last year, were held by the panel. Senate Bill 1007 would seek to provide homeowners’ assistance to descendants of enslaved individuals, and Senate Bill 1013 would provide property tax assistance annually up to $4,000 per home for such individuals.
Sen. Scott Weiner’s bill—Senate Bill 1012—seeking to legalize the use of psychedelic drugs such as mushrooms, mescaline, and MDMA, among others, was ultimately held in suspense after being hotly contested by some law enforcement groups and other stakeholders concerned about what they described as a “slippery slope” toward legalization of all drugs in the state.
“What a great victory for Californians,” Frank Lee—chairman for the California Coalition Against Drugs—said in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times May 17. “At a time when California is already plagued with drugs and crimes as well as a big budget deficit, a very costly bill leading to more proliferation of drugs certainly is contradictory to what we need and should be rejected beyond doubt.”
Frank Lee speaks at a marijuana press conference in Mountain View, Calif., on Feb. 28, 2019. (Cynthia Cai/The Epoch Times)

Frank Lee speaks at a marijuana press conference in Mountain View, Calif., on Feb. 28, 2019. (Cynthia Cai/The Epoch Times)

Senate Bill 964—authored by Sen. Kelly Seyarto—which seeks to protect property owners’ equity in the event properties were auctioned to pay delinquent tax debt, was also held in committee.
“This is disappointing,” Scott Kaufman, legislative director for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a sponsor of the proposal, told The Epoch Times. “This is the third year we’ve brought this bill.”
Those passing the Senate’s fiscal committee include the Paris Hilton-endorsed Senate Bill 1043, which seeks to regulate youth behavioral treatment facilities and create a database of incidents including injuries, restraints, and solitary confinement, among others for public review.
California state Sen. Shannon Grove (2nd L) speaks at a press conference for Senate Bill 1043 with Paris Hilton and fellow senators Aisha Wahab (L) and Janet Nguyen (R) on April 15 at the Capitol. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

California state Sen. Shannon Grove (2nd L) speaks at a press conference for Senate Bill 1043 with Paris Hilton and fellow senators Aisha Wahab (L) and Janet Nguyen (R) on April 15 at the Capitol. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Another bill that succeeded, Sen. Roger Niello’s Senate Bill 1413 would end daylight savings time in California by keeping clocks set on standard time.
For those 918 proposals that cleared the fiscal committees, the clock is ticking for passage from their respective houses of origin, with a deadline of May 24. The Legislature will convene on May 20 to begin considering the bills.
Those that pass onto the next house will again face a suspense test later this year in the other chamber’s appropriations committee if they pass respective policy committees.
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Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

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Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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