Facing a deadline to send spending bills to the floor of the Senate and Assembly, powerful legislative committees quickly and quietly shelved a number of notable bills on Friday.
The Senate and Assembly appropriations committees voted Friday to advance hundreds of bills, but other measures — including efforts to halt a controversial groundwater project in the Mojave Desert and block new offshore oil pipelines — were killed.
The appropriations committees, which do not release vote counts for bills that are given the death sentence of “held in committee,” also drastically watered down some measures, and delayed others for further discussion until January.
The opaque process is an easy way for legislative leaders to kill or change bills they’re unhappy with.
Here’s a rundown of some key bills killed or changed during Friday’s hearings:
SB 17: Prescription Drug Price Transparency
This controversial bill would require drug companies to provide more information about prescription drug prices. Last year, a similar measure was changed so significantly that its author walked away. But this time, Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, said he’s happy with the tweaks made by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which included pushing the reporting requirements back a year, to 2019.
“Californians expect their government to do more to control health care costs, and drug companies shouldn’t be immune from this effort,” Hernandez said in a written statement. “Big Pharma continues to operate in the shadows, raising drug prices without any advanced notice or justification. We deserve better. SB 17 is a positive step forward to bring sunshine and transparency to Big Pharma’s practices.”
SB 21: Written Policy for Surveillance Technology
This bill would have required law enforcement agencies in California to create a written policy for any surveillance technology the agency uses. San Mateo Sen. Jerry Hill said he’s surprised it was killed, noting the bill simply asked police departments to make clear their rules for rapidly developing technologies, including body cameras, GPS systems and software for tracking social media.
“The conclusion I came to was that they are developing this technology faster than I can write legislation, so let’s have one overriding policy and law that would require new technology to go through this same procedure so that the public has the right and opportunity to become involved in the conversation,” Hill said after the hearing.
SB 188: Prohibiting Offshore Pipelines
A bill introduced in response to President Trump’s executive order to open the door to oil drilling off the California coast won’t move forward.
Santa Barbara Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson’s bill wouldn’t have prevented the federal government from approving drilling — but it would have made it harder for companies to get the oil by prohibiting the state from approving new pipelines in its offshore waters.
SB 384: Extending Alcohol Sales Until 4 a.m.
A bill to let local communities permit alcohol sales until 4 a.m. wasn’t killed, but was changed beyond recognition: The Assembly Appropriations Committee amended San Francisco Sen. Scott Wiener’s bill to call for a study of the issue.
Wiener reacted angrily, saying it’s “embarrassing” that nightlife must shut down at 2 a.m. in California. “There’s no need to study anything. There’s nothing radical about letting local communities decide for themselves whether to let their bars and nightclubs go later. It’s embarrassing that California shuts down its nightlife so early.”
SB 623: Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund
A bipartisan bill to create an annual fund to pay for upgrades to water systems in more than 300 communities that don’t have safe drinking water won’t move forward this year, but will be considered in 2018.
Santa Cruz Sen. Bill Monning’s proposal would be paid for by adding fees — averaging $1 a month — to water bills statewide. Assembly Appropriations Chair Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, called it important legislation in announcing it will become a two-year bill.
AB 943: Making it Harder for Voters to Block Developments
The Senate Appropriations Committee killed this legislation from Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, which would have required a 55 percent vote to approve local measures seeking to block certain developments.
It was inspired by Measure S in Los Angeles, a city measure to freeze development that overwhelmingly failed at the ballot box. The proposal was scaled down throughout the year, and faced opposition from some Democrats.
AB 1000: Blocking Mojave Desert Groundwater Extraction
State Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) sought to block the proposed Cadiz water project in the Mojave Desert with this bill, which was killed on Friday. The local Santa Margarita water district argued that groundwater extraction project had already gone through enough review. The legislation had drawn support from Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Gov. Jerry Brown.
“I’m deeply disappointed that the state legislature is actively blocking a bill to prevent Cadiz—one of the Trump administration’s pet projects—from destroying the Mojave Desert,” Feinstein said in a statement.
AB 1250: Adding Requirements for County Contractors
A bill fought tooth and nail by Republicans in the state Legislature, this legislation from Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, would have added requirements for companies hoping to contract services for California counties. The Senate Appropriations Committee said it would hold the bill over for further consideration next year.
“As it stands, the bill is a special interest power grab that would hurt the vulnerable, nonprofits and small businesses by severely restricting public/private partnerships at the county level,” said Sen. Republican Leader Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, in a statement.