These California Bills Could Die Without Discussion on Sept. 1

These California Bills Could Die Without Discussion on Sept. 1

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

Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

8/28/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

Hundreds of bills introduced in the California Legislature earlier this session will be decided during fast-paced hearings held by the Assembly and Senate appropriations committees Sept. 1, including some controversial measures related to drug use, child sex trafficking, and parents’ rights. 
Known to critics as a mysterious process where lawmakers make decisions behind closed doors before announcing the bills’ fates in rapid succession, there is no presentation, debate, or discussion during suspense file hearings. 
Bills with financial costs to the state of at least $50,000 in the Senate and $150,000 in the Assembly are potentially subject to placement on the suspense file by the respective appropriations committees.  
With the state facing a $27 billion budget deficit in the coming fiscal year, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office’s most recent estimate, some suggest proposals are typically more carefully reviewed in such situations.
“Everybody knows that the suspense file is where bills go to die,” Tara Thornton, co-founder of Freedom Angels—a human and civil rights group founded by two mothers to protect children, families, and freedom, according to Ms. Thornton—told The Epoch Times. “It’s where the leadership can determine if they want to kill a bill or not, and they use cost and budget as the grounds to do so.” 
Bills that fail to clear the suspense file find themselves with no path forward this year. Legislators can reintroduce proposals next year. 
The California State Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

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

One bill on the suspense file, Senate Bill 14, authored by Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) and designed to strengthen penalties for child sex traffickers that offend repeatedly, faced public outcry when it was initially killed by the Assembly Public Safety Committee in July. 
Supporters of the bill responded forcefully with calls to representatives and posts on social media criticizing the decision, thus leading to an unprecedented special hearing two days later where all but two members of the committee switched their votes to yes and allowed the bill to pass. 
Some are worried now that the measure is facing peril on the suspense file, but one committee member and the bill’s co-author believes it will pass. 
“I would be shocked if it didn’t pass the committee,” Assemblywoman Diane Dixon (R-Newport Beach) told The Epoch Times. 
Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, speaks during a committee hearing in Sacramento on July 11, 2023. (California State Assembly/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, speaks during a committee hearing in Sacramento on July 11, 2023. (California State Assembly/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Another bill under consideration Friday, Assembly Bill 1078—authored by Assemblyman Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley)—which would limit school boards’ authority in determining books used in school curriculums, brought hundreds of opponents to the Capitol last week.  
Parents from across the state traveled to Sacramento Aug. 23 to voice concerns about what they believe is unsuitable material contained in some textbooks.  
While a number of measures on suspense seek to address the state’s ongoing drug addiction crisis, one bill, Senate Bill 58—authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco)—aims to decriminalize personal possession of certain hallucinogenic substances, including psilocybin mushrooms and mescaline. 
Supporters point to peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate therapeutic potential for psychedelics in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions. 
Opponents suggest the measure will increase drug use and abuse in the state. 
California State Sen. Scott Wiener hosts an event in San Francisco on Oct. 23, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

California State Sen. Scott Wiener hosts an event in San Francisco on Oct. 23, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Several bills related to fentanyl and opioid addiction are also on the suspense file, with two measures that would establish a fentanyl task force under consideration, as well as others pertaining to access to opioid-reversal medications and treatment options. 
Criminal justice reform measures, also under consideration, include Assembly Bill 1186—authored by Assemblywoman Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) which would eliminate monetary payments to victims from minors between the ages of 12 and 17 who commit crimes. Instead, such restitution would be made to victims by the California Victim Compensation Board—which is funded by taxpayer dollars. The convicted minor, under the bill, would also pay their debt to society through community service.  
A hotly contested measure on the suspense file, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 1 (pdf)—introduced by Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters)—would decrease the percentage of votes needed from a supermajority to 55 percent to raise taxes. Bond measures and special tax initiatives would be easier to achieve if the charter amendment passes, according to supporters.
Opponents say, however, the measure will lead to more taxes paid by Californians. 
Of the hundreds of bills on suspense to navigate, those that clear their respective committees will continue the legislative process, with the last day for bills to pass the Legislature on Sept. 14.
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Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

Author

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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