On Monday, state Assembly members and Senators returned to the State Capitol Building in Sacramento to finish off a shortened session set to end on August 31st.
For most of July, both the Senate and the Assembly have been unable to meet due to the summer recess and a small outbreak of COVID-19 in the Capitol Building that infected a handful of people, including Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Marina Del Rey) and Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale). The session is going to be a mix of in-person and remote discussions, with different rules in the Assembly and Senate on hearings and voting.
Due to a compressed schedule, lawmakers now only have a fraction of the normal amount of time to go through the large number of bills currently on each committees docket. Most of the 55 committees are expected to meet only once. A few committees will be exceptions however, as those burdened with a high number of COVID-19, housing, public safety, and other emergency bills will need to meet two times or more.
With such an abbreviated session, lawmakers have noted that the rest of this session will be comparable to last month when a two month hiatus resulted in a compressed schedule to approve the 2020-2021 budget by July 1st. While lawmakers approved it with only hours to spare in June, this session essentially brings that same urgency to hundreds of bills.
“Some people are just going to run out of time on some of their tougher bills,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego).
With many new bills being added in the last two months alone, including numerous police and public safety bills authored in the wake of the George Floyd incident and subsequent protests, as well as a bill that would have the state step in with additional unemployment benefits should the federal CARES Act lapse at the end of the month, many have called for alternate solutions to the shortened session.
The most popular solution has been to create a special session. Assembly Leader Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) confirmed that group of lawmakers will send a request to Governor Newsom for a special session to give extra time to properly go over all bills. This would also allow lawmakers to go over bills recently created more thoroughly rather than have some be rushed through. The state budget last month had been largely criticized as being rushed through, and many lawmakers have noted that they want to avoid criticism such as that as well.
“We got a lot of emails about that,” noted “Dana,” a Capitol employee to the California Globe. “They had two months off from that, plus no extension as the new fiscal year was coming. Here, we can legally get extra time to go over everything. Many Assembly members have even said on all of this that they don’t want to make it look like they’re trying to keep anything from anybody by doing this quickly.”
“So there’s a lot of support for this from everybody.”
A final decision on any session extension is expected from the Governor in the next few weeks, dependent on any further COVID-19 related closures.