(CALMATTERS) – This week is shaping up to be a busy — and controversial — one at the state Capitol.
First up: Gas tax. After twice refusing to consider GOP Assemblymember Kevin Kiley of Rocklin’s bill to suspend California’s excise gas tax for six months, a key Assembly committee passed it on Monday — after gutting the contents and inserting an entirely new measure from Democratic Assemblymember Alex Lee of San Jose.
- Lee’s amendments would, among other things, impose a new tax on gas suppliers when the price of a gallon of gas is “abnormally high” compared to the cost of a barrel of crude oil — and send the tax revenue back to California drivers via a rebate.
- The move prompted fierce anger from Republicans: “Only Assembly Democrats would think you can bring down gas prices by increasing the gas tax,” said GOP Assembly Leader James Gallagher of Yuba City. “Today’s stunt in the Transportation Committee shows just how far Democrats will go to delay and avoid giving Californians any relief from high gas prices.”
- Democratic Assemblymember Laura Friedman of Burbank, who leads the Transportation Committee, defended the move and said she was “a little appalled and shocked that you all are so appalled and shocked by this. This is exactly our process — that we debate a problem and what the solution is going to be. We didn’t invent any of this procedure. This is longstanding procedure about what we do in committee.”
Next up: Evictions. Also Monday, the Assembly advanced a last-minute bill that would extend statewide eviction protections — set to expire Thursday — through June 30 for Californians applying for funds from the state’s backlogged COVID rent relief program. It now heads to the Senate, where it must pass with two-thirds of the vote to land on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.
But in a sign of the proposal’s controversy, some prominent Democrats abstained from the 60-0 vote, including Assemblymember Phil Ting of San Francisco. In a joint statement with state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, Ting slammed provisions of the bill that require tenants to apply for state rent relief by Thursday and override local eviction protections in some cities.
- Ting and Wiener: “We shouldn’t be playing favorites by allowing some cities to protect their renters while prohibiting cities from doing so. Cities must have the ability to protect their residents from eviction and homelessness.”
Today: COVID vaccines return to the spotlight, when a key committee is set to consider a bill that would force companies to require workers and independent contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Meanwhile, a convoy of truckers opposed to COVID mandates is preparing to drive to California to protest a slate of controversial vaccine proposals: “If passed, these bills set the stage for other states to introduce similar laws. We know that what starts in California, spreads to other blue and purple states, and potentially at a federal level,” the People’s Convoy said in an announcement obtained by the Associated Press.
Also today, California’s first-in-the-nation reparations task force is set to resume debate over who should be eligible for direct payments to compensate African Americans for slavery and its lingering effects. The committee voted last month to delay the conversation until March.